Teams: UC Davis at No. 24 Cal Poly; UC Santa Barbara
Records: Aggies, 8-7 (0-2); Mustangs, 7-6 (2-0); Gauchos, 6-7 (2-0)
Where: Mott Gym; The Thunderdome
When: Today at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 7 p.m.
Who to watch: Senior outside hitter Renee Ibekwe leads the Big West Conference in both kills (224) and kills per game (4.00). No other player has broken the 200-kill plateau or averaged more than 3.65 per contest.
Did you know? The Mustangs and Gauchos have combined to win their past five matches. Before the winning streaks, the teams lost a combined nine straight matches.
Preview: UC Davis may be 15 matches into its season, but the way head coach Jamie Holmes sees it, things are just getting started.
The Aggies went 8-5 to open the year, but Big West play just began last weekend when they fell to Pacific and Long Beach State in a pair of close matches.
“I hope the team realizes that the season is brand-new,” Holmes said. “You have your non-conference schedule and your conference schedule. We’re just two games into our conference season. It’s a brand-new focus and a brand-new deal.“
UC Davis will face a tough test on this road trip. First it faces Cal Poly, which swept Cal State Fullerton before defeating Cal State Northridge in four sets last week.
The Mustangs are led by senior outside hitter Kylie Atherstone, the defending conference player of the year. She trails only Ibekwe in the Big West with 3.65 kills per set, and has 22 aces and 124 digs in 13 matches.
UC Davis will then face UCSB, which, like Cal Poly, downed Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge last week.
But the results were less decisive. The Gauchos needed four sets to do away the Titans and five to edge the Matadors.
“Those are two programs that will be very difficult to contend with,” Holmes said. “We just need to approach both of those matches with a high level of intensity. We need to be aggressive and not be afraid of making mistakes. We have to maintain. If we go about our style of play, then it’s all good. I just want to play consistently for a whole match, to play the same in Game 5 that we did in Game 1.“
–Adam Loberstein and Michael Gehlken