The UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team came into the week riding positive momentum after picking up 3 wins at the SB Invitational. The weekend was a busy one for the Gauchos, as they had a matchup with No. 10 Purdue University Fort Wayne on Friday and Ball State University on Saturday. UCSB came into these matches as one of the top teams in the country, holdingthe No. 3 spot in the country. They sure did look like one of the top college teams in the country racking up 3-0 sweeps of both Fort Wayne and Ball State.
Purdue Fort Wayne came into Rob Gym on Friday with hopes of a big-time upset on the road, but they were left sorrily mistaken. UCSB was firing on all cylinders in this one, posting their highest hitting percentage of the year, at an eye-opening 51%. The Gauchos had a balanced attack the whole night, as senior setter Casey McGarry spread the wealth offensively, picking up his fourth straight 30+ assist match (32 assists versus Fort Wayne). McGarry was the previous winner of the Off the Block Setter of the Week honors, and he proved deserving after Friday’s impressive performance.
Ball State had similar hopes to Purdue Fort Wayne entering Saturday’s contest, but unfortunately for them, they ended up leaving Santa Barbara with the same results, a 0-3 loss. The standout of the match for UCSB was senior setter Randy DeWeese. DeWeese has been like a swiss army knife for the Gauchos, being able to do a multitude of things for coach Rick McLaughlin. Against Ball State, he had 3 block assists and a game-high 10 kills. DeWeese’s offensive game this year has been something to see, as he has led UCSB in kills during several of their first matches — not something you see too often from a setter.
UCSB is off to a blazing start to the season, 3-0, sweeping every team they have matched up with so far. They have a 5-0 record now, and by the looks of it, they don’t seem to be slowing down, only improving as the year progresses. They do have a tough challenge ahead of them, as they travel north for a battle against the Cardinal. No. 8 Stanford will host No. 3 UCSB this Saturday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. Then the following weekend the Gauchos have a back-to-back go against No. 2 BYU on Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1.
If UCSB wants to maintain their perfect year they are going to have to continue to block well and keep up their superb offensive attack. Stanford, like a lot of the top teams in the country, has a lot of weapons, and knowing which ones to stop is the key to success. In order to beat Stanford, UCSB should look out for the young talent outside hitter Will Rottman. Rottman was born and raised in Santa Barbara and stood out in his four years at Santa Barbara High School. He is only a freshman, but at this point, he is third on the team in kills and ranks near the top in kill percentage.
Expect Rottman and the rest of Stanford’s roster to come out swinging versus UCSB, in an attempt at upsetting the unbeaten Gauchos. There may be a little extra motivation for Rottman as he goes up against his hometown team and his father’s alma mater (where he also played volleyball). However, I don’t think UCSB will be fazed, as they have started the year dominating teams. The competition this year hasn’t quite figured out how to challenge the Gauchos, as they have been connecting an astonishing 41% of their attempts. Stanford may struggle to defend UCSB’s efficient offense, and for that reason, I think UCSB will take this one on the road.