Fifth-Ranked Men's Volleyball Looks to Stay Hot, Travels to Stanford and Pacific

Fifth-Ranked Men's Volleyball Looks to Stay Hot, Travels to Stanford and Pacific

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• The Schedule
Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 5 UCSB (8-3, 7-3) vs. No. 9 Stanford (8-5, 5-5)
at the Burnham Pavillion in Palo Alto, Calif.
Series record vs. Stanford – 45-31
Streak vs. the Cardinal – Won 2
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 3
Stanford Streak Overall – Lost 1
Last time out – W, 3-2 @ UCSB (1/18/14)

Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 5 UCSB (8-3, 7-3) vs. Pacific (2-11, 1-9)
at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton, Calif.
Series record vs. Pacific – 24-14
Streak vs. the Tigers – Won 1
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 3
Pacific Streak Overall – Lost 2
Last time out – W, 3-0 @ UCSB (1/17/14)

• The Week In Review
Last week saw the Gauchos wrap up a stretch of playing 10 of their first 13 matches of the season on home court. UCSB was able to take down both No. 13 Cal State Northridge and No. 6 Long Beach State last week, losing just one set in the process. Against the Matadors, Austin Kingi's match-high 12 kills were augmented by a memorable performance from Matt Hanley, whose 10-kill second set firmly established momentum in UCSB's favor. CSUN was held to an anemic .068 hitting percentage for the evening. The Long Beach State showdown saw Kingi set a new career high with 20 kills, while Hanley and Evan Licht each had 17 to spark the upset. After three tightly contested games, UCSB broke through for a 13-5 run to close the fourth and clinch the match. With the wins, the Gauchos moved up to third place in the ultra-competitive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

• Memorable Week for Kingi Brothers
Junior outside hitter Austin Kingi and senior libero Chad Kingi both had weeks to remember, setting season and career-best marks in wins over CSUN and LBSU. Kingi was named an MPSF Player of the Week nominee after leading the squad in kills in both matches. He set career highs in hitting percentage (.474) against CSUN and in kills (20) against LBSU. The steady attacker leads UCSB in total kills with 139. Chad recorded at least 13 digs in both matches and now has ten 13+ dig matches in his career. His 27 digs over the week were the most he has recorded over any two-match stretch in his career.

• Poll Vaulting
After winning their third straight match, the Gauchos jumped all the way up to No. 5 in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, up from seventh a week ago. It is the highest ranking for the program since being ranked No. 2 in the 2011 postseason poll. UCSB hasn't been ranked this highly in the regular season since Mar. 7, 2011.

• Hot Start
With records of 8-3 overall, 7-3 in conference, and 7-1 at home, the Gauchos are off to a historically good start. Their 8-3 mark is their best since the 2007 team, when the Ken Preston-led Gauchos went 12-3 out of the gate. Similarly, their 7-3 start to the conference schedule is their best since 2007. UCSB's home dominance is even more notable, as the program has jumped out to the best eight-match start to a home schedule in the MPSF era (since '93).

• Energy Needed Early
The first set has proved to be a good indicator of success in UCSB's matches so far in 2014. The winner of the first set in matches involving the Gauchos has gone 9-2 this year.

• Paramount Defense
Moreso than any other statistic, an advantage in digs has been the best predictor of a winner in UCSB's matches. The Gauchos are undefeated in the seven matches where they have outdug their opponents, but are just 1-3 in matches where they are outdug. Chad Kingi is the only Gaucho among the top-15 diggers in the MPSF at 88 scoops, but Jonah Seif (82), Evan Licht (76) and Austin Kingi (71) are all knocking on the door.

• Block Party
At 2.82 blocks per set, the Gauchos currently rank fifth in the conference in that category, however they are just percentage points behind second-place Pacific's 2.94 rate. UCSB boasts three players in the top-15 conference-wide in roofs, Jake Staahl (fourth, 1.43 per game), Ryan Thompson (eighth, 1.27), and Jonah Seif (15th, 1.02). Seif leads all MPSF setters in stuffs.

• Corralling the Cardinal, Tigers
Having beaten both Pacific and Stanford at Rob Gym earlier this year, the Gauchos have a chance to end some nasty streaks against their northern rivals. With wins this weekend, UCSB will pull off their first season sweep of Pacific since 2010 and their first of Stanford since 2007. The Gauchos haven't won at Pacific since Feb. 25, 2011, and haven't upended the Cardinal in Palo Alto since Jan. 28, 2010.