Playoff-bound Gauchos to Host No. 6 UCLA Wednesday, then Travel to Top-Ranked UC Irvine Saturday
April 10, 2006
This Week's Matchups:
Wednesday, April 12, 7:05 p.m.
No. 8 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 6 UCLA
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Saturday, April 15, 7:00 pm.
No. 8 UC Santa Barbara at No. 1 UC Irvine
The Gauchos enter the week with an overall record of 13-13 and a conference mark of 9-11 after splitting its two matches last week against USC and Pepperdine. Despite its loss to Pepperdine Saturday, UCSB clinched an MPSF playoff berth thanks to USC's 3-0 loss to Cal State Northridge. As it stands, UCSB holds the eighth slot with two games remaining on the schedule. The Gauchos trail UCLA, who holds the seventh position, by one game, but with a win Wednesday and Saturday and two UCLA losses, UCSB could leapfrog into the seventh spot.
The format of the MPSF Tournament is such that the No. 7 and 8 seeds must play an opening round "play-in" game to determine who will face the No. 2 seed in the first round. With UCLA trailing Cal State Northridge by two games, it is possible that the Bruins could play their way into the sixth seed, which would make CSUN the No. 7 seed. Regardless of what happens this week though, UCSB will be in the "play-in" game next Wednesday, Apr. 19 at the site of the No. 7 seed.
Scouting the Opponent
No. 6 UCLA visits Santa Barbara in the midst of a six-game win streak, sporting an overall record of 18-12 and an MPSF mark of 10-10. The Bruins are coming off a 2-0 week in which they swept both Stanford and Pacific. UCLA is led by Steve Klosterman who averages just under four kills per game.
Top-ranked UC Irvine is also coming off a two-win week against Pacific and Stanford. The Anteaters haven't lost since Jan. 27, an 0-3 loss to Hawaii, and have won 17 straight since. UCI has gone to five games just twice in this span, both coming against BYU. The Anteaters are led by the potent combination of Matt Webber and Jayson Jablonsky who average 4.78 and 4.19 kills, respectively.
The Gauchos are one of three teams who can lay claim to beating UC Irvine this season. In the opening round of the UCSB/Elephant Bar Invitational, Santa Barbara beat the Anteaters 3-2. The Anteaters got their revenge on the same court a month later though, downing the Gauchos 3-1 on Feb. 11.
UCSB's match against UCLA marks the third time the two teams will have met in 2006. UCSB has yet to win a game against the Bruins, dropping a 3-0 contest Jan. 6 in the UCSB/Ebar Invitational and another sweep on Feb. 8 at UCLA.
Junior outside hitter Aaron Richman seized the spotlight for the Gauchos this past week, giving the Gauchos a team-high 21 kills against USC and 14 at Pepperdine. Richman swung efficiently in each match as well, hitting for a .440 percentage against Pepperdine and a .333 clip against USC. Richman is currently averaging 2.77 kills per game, ranking him second on the Gauchos.
While Theo Brunner may not have established himself as a legitimate deity yet, his hitting percentage has been somewhat divine. The sophomore middle blocker is hitting at a .438 percentage, tops on the Gauchos by nearly .100. Last week, Brunner continued his reign of efficiency, hitting for a .407 clip against USC (on 16 kills) and a .588 mark at Pepperdine (on 12 kills). Brunner's .422 MPSF hitting percentage ranks him sixth in the conference.
Max Klineman is continuing to have one of the best season's for a freshman setter in recent memory. At 13.74 assists per game, Klineman boasts the third-highest average in the conference. The Manhattan Beach, Calif. native is also contributing to the Gaucho defense, accounting for 0.53 blocks per game and 1.01 digs per game.
Berman Down the House
Junior outside hitter Bryan Berman continued his stellar 2006 season this past week with a 12-kill performance against USC and a nine-kill match against Pepperdine. Berman's MPSF kill per game average of 2.94 is second on the team while his .345 hitting percentage is also second. The Palmdale, Calif. native has passed well for the Gauchos as well, digging 1.62 balls per game and assisting 0.25 kills per game.
Wednesday night's match against UCLA will be the last home match in the careers of seniors Dane Jensen and Jared Godinez. In their tenure here, the Gauchos have gone 53-62, including a 2005 tournament run to the MPSF semifinals. Jensen finishes his career with 2204 career assists, 64 kills on 140 total attempts in 205 career games. Godinez departs Santa Barbara having appeared in 79 games in which he recorded a total of 88 kills on 151 swings. The two seniors will be honored Wednesday night in a pre-game ceremony.