Men's Volley Returns Home to Host Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State

Photo by Tony Mastres
Photo by Tony Mastres

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• The Schedule
Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 7 UCSB (5-2, 4-2) vs. No. 13 CSUN (3-6, 3-5)
at Rob Gym
Series record vs. Cal State Northridge – 48-38
Streak vs. the Matadors – Won 1
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 1
CSUN Streak Overall – Lost 3
Last time out – W, 3-1 @ UCSB (3/13/13)

Friday, Feb. 8, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 7 UCSB (5-2, 4-2) vs. No. 6 Long Beach State (6-3, 5-3)
at Rob Gym
Series record vs. LBSU – 47-43
Streak vs. the 49ers – Lost 1
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 1
LBSU Streak Overall – Won 3
Last time out – L, 3-0 @ LBSU (3/1/13)

• The Week In Review
UC Santa Barbara earned a 1-1 split playing on the road against a pair of top-5 teams in the nation, falling in five sets at No. 5 USC before triumphing at No. 3 Pepperdine. Several players had standout performances against the Trojans, including Jonah Seif (see below), Ryan Hardy, and Evan Licht (both had double-doubles), but a late run that won the fourth set spurred USC to a dominant fifth game performance. The Gauchos recovered against the Waves, winning the first two sets of the match behind a team .359 hitting percentage. Pepperdine would answer back with a third set win, riding that momentum to a .542 hitting percentage in an easily won fourth. Trailing 7-9 in the fifth, the Gauchos went on an 8-3 run to close out the match. A Jake Staahl kill followed by a Staahl-Licht double-block helped break a 9-9 deadlock, then Weston Nielsen struck one of UCSB's three aces on the day to take a commanding 14-11 lead. Two points later, Seif would dump an Austin Kingi pass to rescue the Gauchos win.

• Seif Named Player of the Week
Sophomore setter Jonah Seif turned in one of his most productive weeks as a Gaucho, culminating in an MPSF Player of the Week award. The Thousand Oaks, Calif. native recorded his second career triple-double with a 48-assist, 12-dig, 10-block performance against USC, setting season highs in the latter two categories. In the team's five set win over Pepperdine, he dished out a season-best 53 assists, the first time this season he has eclipsed the 50-assist mark and just two off his career best. The 6-8 Seif currently leads all Division I setters in blocking at 1.16 stuffs per set. He is UCSB's first conference player of the week since Jeff Menzel in April 2011.

• Poll Vaulting
Ranked No. 7 in the country, the Gauchos' current ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll is their highest this season. It is the team's best ranking since being placed in the same slot in the 2013 postseason poll.

• Block Party
UCSB currently boasts the top statistical blocker in the nation in junior middle Jake Staahl. The Studio City, Calif. native leads all Division I players with a 1.61 blocks per set average. He set a career high with 11 blocks against USC last Wednesday, and has recorded 7+ blocks in four of the past five matches. Senior middle blocker Ryan Thompson has also helped UCSB to dominate in the middle, ranking eighth nationwide and fourth in the conference with 1.39 blocks per set. The two have led the Gauchos to a 114-98 blocking advantage over their opponents this season, and the team ranks third in the country and second in the MPSF by averaging 3.0 blocks per game.

• Nice Week for Nielsen
Outside hitter Weston Nielsen capitalized on some of the most extensive playing time of his career this past week, as the junior set or matched career highs in kills (18 vs. Pepperdine), digs (nine, Pepperdine), blocks (five, USC), and aces (one, both). The Corona Del Mar, Calif. native has appeared in every match this season for the the Gauchos after featuring in just 19 over his first two years in blue-and-gold.

• Home Sweet Home
The Gauchos will be happy to return to Rob Gym this week, where they currently sport a 5-1 record (7-1 including exhibitions). This stretch represents the program's best start to a home schedule since the 2001 season, when the Ken Preston-led Gauchos jumped out to a 5-1 start as well. UCSB currently holds the third best home winning percentage in the conference, after BYU and UCLA who are both an undefeated 4-0 in their own buildings.

• Hanging Tough
Last week's win over third-ranked Pepperdine marked UCSB's second win over a top-three opponent so far this season. The Gauchos were winless in five matchups against top-three opponents last year. UCSB hasn't had two or more wins over top-three opponents since the 2011 season, when the team beat No. 1 USC twice within a week to advance to the NCAA Championship match.