Recharged Gauchos Travel to Cal Baptist, Face Cougars on BYU TV

Photo by Tony Mastres
Photo by Tony Mastres

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• The Schedule
Wedneday, Mar. 26, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. PDT
No. 5 UCSB (13-6, 12-6) vs. Cal Baptist (4-18, 2-16)
at the Van Dyne Gym in Riverside, Calif.
Series record vs. Cal Baptist – 7-6
Streak vs. the Lancers – Lost 1
UCSB Streak Overall – Lost 1
Cal Baptist Streak Overall – Lost 6
Last time out – L, 3-0 @ Cal Baptist (4/3/13)

Friday, Mar. 28, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. PDT
No. 5 UCSB (13-6, 12-6) vs. No. 2 BYU (16-4, 16-2)
at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah
Series record vs. BYU – 21-34
Streak vs. the Cougars – Lost 2
UCSB Streak Overall – Lost 1
BYU Streak Overall – Won 4
Last time out – L, 3-2 @ UCSB (4/5/13)

• Gauchos on TV
This friday's matchup with the BYU Cougars will be broadcasted on BYU TV. The channel can be found locally on Cox Cable channel 150, DirecTV channel 374, and DISH Network channel 9403. BYU TV is included in Cox's TV Starter package and should be available to most clients.

• Looking In the Rear View
UC Santa Barbara had a week off of action for final examinations, but went 1-1 against top-5 opponents USC and Pepperdine the week before. Against No. 5 USC on Mar. 12, the Gauchos fought back from a 2-0 set deficit to claim a five-game victory. Sophomore Jonah Seif dished out 55 assists in the comeback win, helping five UCSB attackers to double-digit kills, led by Evan Licht's 15. It was the first time this season that five or more UCSB players had 10+ kills. Middles Ryan Thompson and Ryan Hardy combined for 20 kills and a .692 hitting percentage against the Trojans. Conversely, the Gauchos squandered a 2-1 set lead against third-ranked Pepperdine on Mar. 14 despite numerous career-best individual performances from UCSB. Matt Hanley led the Gauchos with 20 kills that night, while Evan Licht (18) wasn't far behind. Licht was also able to serve seven aces on the night, becoming the third Gaucho ever to do so and the first since 2010.

• Proven in Provo
Under Rick McLaughlin, the Gauchos have proven themselves to be one of the few teams in the nation who can win at Smith Fieldhouse, BYU's home court. UCSB has won matches there in two of the past three seasons despite the Cougars maintaining an .893 winning percentage at home over that time. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Long Beach State and Stanford are the only other MPSF programs to have won at BYU. The Gauchos were the only team to beat the Cougars at home in the 2011 season, winning a four-setter in the first round of the MPSF Tournament en route to a national championship match appearance.

• Poll Vaulters
After a 1-1 week before finals, the Gauchos slipped to No. 5 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll after being in the No. 4 spot a week prior, their highest ranking since the 2011 postseason poll had them ranked second in the country.

• Magic Number
After 18 conference matches and a 12-6 MPSF record, UCSB's magic number to clinch a spot in the conference tournament is at four. This means any combination of UCSB wins and ninth-place Hawai'i losses adding up to four ensures the Gauchos a spot in the postseason. The Gauchos are still aiming for a top-four finish in the MPSF, which would allow them to host a postseason match for the first time since 2007. UCSB hasn't made the postseason in consecutive years since the 2006-07 seasons. BYU is the only MPSF team to clinch a playoff spot so far.

• Hot Start at Home
With a 10-2 record at home, the Gauchos are  off to their best 12-match start to a home schedule in the MPSF era (since 1993). UCSB is currently maintaining the second-best home winning percentage in the conference behind undefeated BYU.

• Script Reversal
UCSB's last two matches bucked a pair of season-long trends. In the Gauchos' first 17 matches, the winner of the first set went on to take the match 15 times, but the first-set winner lost both matches in the USC and Pepperdine matches. Similarly, the team with more digs in a match involving the Gauchos won 16 out of the first 17 contests this season, but the team that was outdug in UCSB's last two matches won both times.

• Pass and Serve
Not coincidentally, the Gauchos own both the top serve and the top defense in the MPSF conference. UCSB has ripped off 1.39 aces per set so far in 2014 to lead all MPSF teams, while the Gauchos' .223 opponents hitting percentage is markedly lower than the rest of the field. UCSB's 19 point advantage in that category over second-place Stanford is larger than the Cardinal's lead on seventh-place UC Irvine (.258). Evan Licht is UCSB's top server at 0.42 aces per game, while Jonah Seif (0.32 per game) also ranks amongst the conference top-10.

• California Dreaming
UC Santa Barbara is the only squad in NCAA men's volleyball to have a team comprised solely of players from California. All 19 players on Rick McLaughlin's team were raised in the Golden State, stretching from Nevada City in the north (Bobby Curtis) to Coto de Caza in the south (Spencer Buckley).