No. 5 UCSB Travels South to LBSU, CSUN With Chance to Clinch Playoff Spot

No. 5 UCSB Travels South to LBSU, CSUN With Chance to Clinch Playoff Spot

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• The Schedule
Thursday, Apr. 3, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. PDT
No. 5 UCSB (14-7, 13-7) vs. No. 6 Long Beach State (16-7, 13-7)
at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif.
Series record vs. Long Beach State – 48-43
Streak vs. the 49ers – Won 1
UCSB Streak Overall – Lost 1
LBSU Streak Overall – Lost 1
Last time out – W, 3-1 @ UCSB (2/14/14)

Saturday, Apr. 5, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. PDT
No. 5 UCSB (14-7, 13-7) vs. Cal State Northridge (8-15, 7-13)
at the Matadome in Northridge, Calif.
Series record vs. CSUN – 49-38
Streak vs. the Matadors – Won 2
UCSB Streak Overall – Lost 1
CSUN Streak Overall – Won 1
Last time out – W, 3-0 @ UCSB (2/12/14)

• The Week in Review
Following a week off for final examinations, the Gauchos went 1-1 on the road last week, sweeping Cal Baptist before falling in five to BYU. Junior outside hitter Weston Nielsen led the UCSB attack against the Lancers, picking up 12 kills on a sky-high .647 hitting percentage. Evan Licht had a dozen put-aways as well. Setter Jonah Seif averaged 11.3 assists per set and orchestrated an offense that recorded a .325 team hitting percentage. Nielsen and Licht co-led the team in kills once again at BYU, but the Cougars were able to shake off a 2-1 deficit to come back and defeat the Gauchos to secure an unbeaten home record in the regular season. The Gauchos were the only team this season to take the Cougars to five games on their home court, and they also broke a 21-set home winning streak for BYU.

• Poll Position
After a 1-1 week, the Gauchos stayed at No. 5 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll this week. UCSB has been as high as No. 4 in the AVCA poll this year, its highest ranking since 2011.

• Magic Number
Through 20 conference matches and with a 13-7 MPSF record, UCSB's magic number to clinch a spot in the conference tournament is at three. This means any combination of UCSB wins and ninth-place Hawai'i losses adding up to three 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.

• Top Dogs
Behind strong serving and blocking efforts all year, the Gauchos currently can lay claim to the top opponents' hitting percentage in the conference at .228. UCSB has led the MPSF in this statistic virtually all year.

• 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.

• Staahl-ing the Opposition
Junior middle blocker Jake Staahl has come into his own in the 2014 season after locking down the most consistent playing time of his career. This year, he ranks third in the conference and fifth nationwide in blocks per set at 1.28. That figure puts him just seven points behind UCSB alum Dylan Davis's 2013 output of 1.35 per game, which garnered the senior First Team All-America honors. Not just a defensive player, he sports the ninth best hitting percentage in the MPSF (.408).

• Licht It Up
With 32 aces this season, senior opposite Evan Licht is making a dent in the UCSB record book and in the opposition's serve-receive game plan. Ranked fourth in the MPSF in aces per game (0.39), he now is fourth in UCSB program history with 82 career aces. Bryan Berman is one spot ahead of Licht with 91 career aces.

• Kingi Collects Digs
Having accrued 172 digs up to this point this season, senior libero Chad Kingi is currently on pace for his third consecutive 200-dig campaign. After recording the third most single-season digs in program history last year (271), Kingi currently sits sixth in the UCSB annals with 665 career scoops.

• Tiebreakers
As just two matches seperate third-place UCSB from ninth-place Hawai'i, it is very likely that tiebreakers will come into play in the final MPSF standings. The top three-tiebreakers the conference uses between tied teams are head-to-head record, head-to-head sets wons, and head-to-head points won. By this criteria, UCSB owns tiebreakers over Hawai'i, while Stanford,UC Irvine, and UCLA own tiebreakers on the Gauchos. UCSB's tiebreakers with Long Beach State, Pepperdine, and USC won't be determined until the end of the season because the teams haven't completed their series or are equal on H2H wins, sets, and points.

• 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).