By Sam Araki
The No. 14 BYU Cougars women”s volleyball team continues its play against top-25 competitors as BYU takes on the No. 19 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.
All five of the Gaucho”s losses have come against top-25 teams this year, and they have five returning players on a team that advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals last year.
“They have a lot of players back from last year, and a 6”3″ freshman middle hitter that is doing a nice job for them,” said BYU women”s volleyball coach Elaine Michaelis.
The Cougars swept No. 22 Utah on Thursday, September 20, at the Smith Fieldhouse, and, in playing the Gauchos, face a team that plays a similar style to the Utes.
“They run a 6-2 system like Utah and they are a great defensive team,” said Michaelis. “You have to be very aggressive to put the ball away against their defense.”
On defense, the Cougars will focus their attention on the Gauchos” junior outside hitter Danielle Bauer.
“I think we need to contain Bauer – she gets almost twice as many attack opportunities and kills as anyone on the team,” said Michaelis.
BYU is 7-7-1 all-time against UCSB. In their latest meeting last November, the Cougars swept the Gauchos 3-0, in Santa Barbara. At the Smith Fieldhouse, BYU holds a 2-1 record versus UCSB.
“I think they have a strong team,” said BYU junior outside hitter Sunny Mahe. “They have a lot of beach players, who know how to move around.”
Although the Gauchos have five losses in eight games, they have lost to four top-10 teams, and remain a highly rated opponent. The Cougars look forward to their match against UCSB, which will be playing its ninth straight road game.
“We”re really excited to play a ranked team,” said BYU sophomore setter Karina Puikkonen. “It helps us to get ready for the end of the end of the season.”
The Cougars know that they have to play their style to win.
“We just need to keep up our tempo,” said Puikkonen. “I think we have to worry about ourselves – not about what other teams do.”
The Cougars are currently on a 5-match winning streak, and have won 15 matches in a row at home. Nationally, BYU is ranked No. 10 in attendance, with an average crowd of 1,553.
The game will be televised on KBYU-TV, channel 11, and on BYU-TV, which is available on alternative cable providers.
This weekend, BYU faces two conference opponents in the Smith Fieldhouse; New Mexico on Friday, September 28 at 7 p.m., and Air Force on Saturday, September 29 at 8 p.m.