Friday, November 22, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Fullerton (10-15, 3-10)
at The Thunderdome
All-time record vs. Titans: 58-8
Last meeting: W, 3-0 (Oct. 26, 2013)
Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at UC Riverside (1-24, 0-13)
at The Thunderdome
All-time record vs. Highlanders: 30-1
Last meeting: W, 3-0 (Oct. 25, 2013)
The Gauchos took control of their playoff destiny last weekend after picking up two wins on the road at UC Davis (3-0) and at No. 21 Cal State Northridge (3-2). In Davis, UCSB faced one of the toughest defensive teams in the conference and battled hard in every set to complete the sweep 25-21, 25-23, 25-23.With the victory at CSUN; UCSB now owns the tiebreaker between the two teams.
Fight for First
Entering the ninth week of Big West play, UCSB is still in second place in the standings, but they have the same amount of loses (2) as the conference leader CSUN. With the tiebreaker, however, the Gauchos are in the driver's seat in the Big West. Meanwhile, No. 10 Hawai'i is in third place at 9-3.
Peaking at the Right Time
UCSB started playing its best volleyball once the conference schedule started. In the past two months, the Gauchos have gone 3-1 against ranked opponents and have swept six teams. In the most recent RPI standings, UCSB made a jump from 10 spots to No. 53, and it also received votes in the AVCA Coaches' Poll for the first time this season.
Three Gaucho seniors will be competing in their final home match this Saturday in the Thuderdome. Kara Sherrard, Katey Thompson, and Leah Sully will be honored in during Senior Night with a pre-match ceremony.
After leading UCSB to back-to-back road wins, Ali Spindt was voted as the Big West Player of the Week. This year, she is just one of two freshman and the second Gaucho (Katey Thompson) to win the accolade. First at UC Davis, the outside hitter was the only player to hit double figures in kills with 14, and also added to her 17 digs. Against No. 21 Cal State Northridge, again led UCSB with a career-high 18 kills to go along with her 10 digs. Spindt has now recorded 11 double-doubles this season, easily the most on the team.
Top Ten Sully
Leah Sully has been making the most of what has been an unorthodox senior season. After recording the program's fifth-most kills in a single season in 2012, an elbow injury forced Sully to switch from outside hitter to libero at the start of the 2013 conference schedule. So far, she has recorded 360 digs and is now second all-time with 1,649. She will need to average 15.75 digs per match to become the all-time digs leader by the end of the regular season.
Katey Thompson is hitting her peak in her senior season for the Gauchos. She is UCSB's kills leader with 262, and averages 3.36 kills per set (third-best in the Big West). Thompson has recorded double digit kills figures in 16 of the 20 matches she's played in this season. Also putting up solid numbers at the net, the senior has recorded the third-most total blocks on the team with 70. That mark is the highest for any non-middle blocker on the UCSB roster.
Clashing with the Titans
Cal State Fullerton is in eighth place in the conference standings, and is coming off a winless weekend after losses to UC Irvine (3-2) and Long Beach State (3-1). Alyse Hensley leads the Titans with 281 kills and ranks fifth in the Big West with a 3.09 kills per set average. Right behind her is Bre Moreland who sports a 276 kills total. The outside hitter is also the team's digs leader with 327, good for sixth-most in the conference.
Rounding Up Riverside
Sitting in last place in the Big West, UC Riverside enters this week 0-13 in conference play, and 1-24 overall. The Highlanders have been swept 10 times since the start of Big West play and have won just three sets in the past 13 matches. Cristina Maietta and Ashley Cox are the top-two attackers on the team with 197 and 194 kills, respectively. On defense, Maddie Hubbell has dug up 322 digs, the eighth most in the conference. She is also averaging 3.88 digs per set, third in the Big West.
Where We Rank
In conference play, the Gauchos have become one of the top attacking teams as they are third in the Big West with a 13.74 kills per set and a .250 kill percentage. At the net, UCSB has averaged the most blocks per set (3.17), and also own the highest block assists mark (244). Overall, the Gauchos are second in total blocks with 149. Santa Barbara is the only team averaging at least 18 points per set (18.1).
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.