Though the winner of the women’s volleyball matchup Friday against UCSB is yet to be determined, one outcome is all but certain. Barring injury or lack of playing time, junior outside hitter Hailey Harward will likely record the 1,000th dig of her career.
Harward needs only three to meet the milestone, which is about as many as she averages each set.
“Last match I knew I needed 10, that’s the only match [that I’ve kept count]. I got seven so hopefully I’ll get three more this next match,” Harward said. “I just need to contribute to the team however I can.”
Personal milestones aside, Long Beach is also seeking a winning conference record for the first time since Sept. 28. A win Friday would give them such a record and grant them fourth place in the Big west.
Both teams come into the match 4-4 in conference and 2-3 in their last five games. Under head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch, the Gauchos have won just two of their 11 meetings against the 49ers. However, those wins have come in the two most recent meetings between the teams.
“They’re a great defensive team, they’re very scrappy and they’ve got the best attacker in our conference, and probably in NCAA,” head coach Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.
UCSB junior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins leads the conference in kills with 417. She has 108 more than Torrey Van-Winden, the second-best attacker in the conference. Van-Winden plays for Cal Poly, the 49ers’ opponent Saturday.
“For us the serve and pass game is key because it’s a ball control thing,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.
The 49ers will look for strong performances from blockers senior Emma Kirst and junior Yizhi Xue. The two are conference first and second, respectively, in blocks per set. Their front-net presence will be key to mitigating the Gaucho’s attacks as Friday’s contest marks a classic offense vs. defense matchup.
“They have a lot of good hitters with quick arms so it’s [important] for our blockers to get their hands across the net fast,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.
LBSU freshman outside hitter Allison Martinez is the only freshman in the conference top ten in hitting percentage. She led with 11 kills in the three-set win against Fullerton Tuesday. Martinez contributes offensive depth to the 49ers, which they will need to win back-to-back games.
“We’re just trying to take it one game at a time,” McKienzie-Fuerbringer said.
Harward worked with Fuerbringer on a hitting drill for an extra 15 minutes after practice to prepare for this weekend’s matchup.
“It’s a strategy for our next game, so I don’t necessarily want to reveal that [tactic], but i’m working on some different attacking strategies,” Harward said.
The 7 p.m. Friday game against UCSB is at Walter Pyramid and is the second in a three-game homestand.