No. 8 Gauchos Head Into Crucial Week Hunting for Playoff Spot

April 3, 2006

This Week's Matchups:
Wednesday, April 5, 7:05 p.m.
No. 8 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 10 USC
Santa Barbara, Calif.
The Thunderdome

Saturday, April 8, 7:00 pm.
No. 8 UC Santa Barbara at No. 5 Pepperdine
Malibu, Calif.

The Skinny
The Gauchos enter the week with an overall record of 12-12 and a conference mark of 8-10 after dropping its second straight match to Cal State Northridge this past Friday at Northridge. UCSB appeared poised to take revenge upon the Matadors going into the fifth game with momentum on its side after winning game four, but the Gauchos were unable to stop CSUN's Dan Rhodes in the fifth frame, losing the match 30-20, 30-24, 22-30, 27-30, 15-12.

The loss to Northridge on Friday dropped Santa Barbara into a tie with UCLA for seventh place in the MPSF. With this week's opponent USC trailing UCSB and UCLA by one and a half games, the seventh and eighth spots in the MPSF Tournament are up for grabs. The Gauchos have four games remaining on the schedule, including a match against UCLA next Wednesday at Robertson Gym that could very well decide the No. 7 and 8 spots in the MPSF Tournament.

Scouting the Opponent
USC enters the week with an overall record of 11-15 and a conference mark of 7-12 The Trojans are coming off a three-game loss to the NAIA's top-ranked team, Cal Baptist, last Wednesday after disposing of No. 5 Pepperdine earlier in the week. The Trojans are led by Juan Figueroa who is currently averaging 4.72 kills per game, the fourth highest percentage in the MPSF. In the Gauchos previous match with the Trojans at USC, Evan Patak recorded 25 kills to lead UCSB to a 3-1 victory.

When the Gauchos travel to No. 5 Pepperdine on Saturday, they will surely be marked men. On February 15, then-No. 11 UCSB upset then-No. 2 Pepperdine at Robertson Gym in a five-game thriller, ending an eight-match losing streak in the process. At 14-6 overall and 13-6 in conference, Pepperdine currently resides in fourth place in the MPSF. The Waves feature one of the top blocking tandems in the nation in Andy Hein (1.46 blocks/game) and Tom Hulse (1.55 blocks/game).

Patak Yourself on the Back
Evan Patak is making a strong case for Player of the Year accolades as the year winds down. Patak is coming off a season-high 31-kill performance against Cal State Northridge in which he bumped his league-leading kill-per-game percentage up to 6.06. The junior opposite also finished with a .429 hitting percentage to go with three aces, two assists, a team-high six digs and four blocks on the night.

Block Party
In the game against CSUN, the Gauchos recorded their highest block total of the season with 16.5. As a team, UCSB is currently averaging 2.20/game, yet its opponents are averaging 2.65.

Long Distance Brunner
Theo Brunner also seems to be coming on strong for the Gauchos as the regular season comes to a close. Brunner recorded 14 kills and eight blocks in UCSB's loss to Northridge on Friday. The sophomore middle blocker is currently averaging 0.92 blocks per game in conference play while hitting for a .413 percentage in the MPSF.