Friday, October 18, 2013 at 7 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. CSUN (15-3, 5-0)
at The Thunderdome
All-time record vs. Matadors: 30-6
Last meeting: L, 3-1 (Nov. 3, 2012)
Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Davis (10-8, 2-3)
at The Thunderdome
All-time record vs. Aggies: 16-4
Last meeting: L, 3-0 (Nov. 10, 2012)
Last weekend, UCSB captured easily its most impressive win of the season in a 3-2 upset over then-No. 5 Hawai'i. It was the Gauchos first victory over a top-5 ranked opponent in over a decade. The loss snapped the Rainbow Wahine's 41-match win streak in conference play, which dated back to 2008. Katey Thompson led UCSB in Honolulu with 19 kills and a season-high 11 total blocks. Ali Spindt contributed 12 kills and was sound defensively, as she recorded a career-high 17 digs. As a team, UCSB outblocked Hawaii 17-11 and edged them in kill percentage .195 to .111.
Kate the Great
Katey Thompson is hitting her peak in her senior season for the Gauchos. She is UCSB's kills leader with 170, and averages 3.54 kills per set (second-best in the Big West). The right side hitter has set or tied her career-high in almost every major statistical category this season, highlighted by her 23-kill performance against Long Beach State and her 11 total blocks recorded in Honolulu. This week, Thompson is coming off her first Big West Player of the Week award after she recorded a double-double (19 kills, 11 total blocks) to lead the Gauchos in their 3-2 road win over Hawaii.
Checking the Conference
With wins over Cal Poly and Hawai'i, the Gauchos have defeated a first-place Big West team back-to-back. UCSB will have a chance to tally a third such win in a row, as Cal State Northridge enters this week as the top-team in the conference at 5-0. The Gauchos currently sit alone in third-place with their 3-1 mark.
In conference play, UCSB has established itself as one of the top teams in several statistical categories. The Gauchos only trail Hawai'i for both the most kills per set (13.82) and kill percentage in conference (.257) play. Collectively, the Gauchos have performed well at the net with the second-most blocks per set in the league (3.00) and the third-most total blocks (51).
Though only a freshman, Ali Spindt has made an immediate impact on the Gauchos' roster. She has recorded 158 kills, just 12 behind Katey Thompson's team-leading total. What's more impressive is her recent tear through the past five matches in which she's averaged a double-double with 13.8 kills and 13.6 digs per match.
Marking Up the Matadors
CSUN enters the fourth week of Big West play as the conference's first-place team at 5-0. After narrowly defeating UC Davis in five sets in their league opener, the Matadors only dropped two sets in their following five matches and recorded back-to-back road sweeps against UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton. As the away team, CSUN is 5-1 this season, only losing to Washington in Seattle 3-1. Leading the team on offense is opposite Natalie Allen who has totaled 216 kills so far this year. The Matadors also have one of the most efficient attackers in the Big West with Casey Hinger who's .334 kill percentage ranks her fourth in the conference.
Analyzing the Aggies
In the conference standings, the UC Davis sits in the middle of the pack as they are tied for sixth-place with Long Beach State at 2-3. Last weekend, the Aggies hosted their first home matches of their Big West schedule with a 3-2 win over UC Irvine and a 3-1 loss to LBSU. On the road, Davis is an even 3-3 overall and 1-2 against conference opponents. On offense, the Aggies will look to outside hitter Kaylin Squyres who is currently fourth in the Big West with 219 kills. Middle blocker Victoria Lee is another primary contributer, as she has swung for 149 kills off her conference leading .417 kill percentage.
Leah Sully started off the season as one of the Gauchos' top offensive threats, but she has recently made the move to libero to help anchor her team's defense. So far, the transition has been seamless, as in her first four matches she has averaged 16.25 digs per match. In 2012 as an outside hitter, Sully finished the year with 10th in program history with 495 digs in a single season. Even before switching positions, Sully was averaging 10.6 digs through this season's first 12 matches.
Two-Year Thunderdome Celebration Continues
In 2013-14, UC Santa Barbara will continue its two-year 35th anniversary celebration of the Thunderdome. In the Fall of 1979, the doors officially opened for UCSB's Events Center and a new era in Gaucho Athletics was born. Nicknamed the Thunderdome, the Events Center has been home for UCSB's prolific women's volleyball program since its opening. Under the bright lights of the 'Dome, the Gauchos established themselves as a perennial NCAA contender, qualifying for the national tournament 27 times including 26 straight.
UCSB women's volleyball is historically one of the most successful teams in the NCAA. The Gauchos are just one of only four teams to qualify for the first 26 NCAA Tournaments. Overall, UCSB reached 27 NCAA Tournaments, which includes multiple Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen berths. Before the NCAA recognized women's volleyball, UCSB was one of the top teams in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), reaching its national tournament Final Four three times including two third place finishes.