UCSB Opens Season at Rams Volleyball Classic

UCSB Opens Season at Rams Volleyball Classic

The Schedule
Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 10 a.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Marquette (neutral)
at Moby Arena
All-time record vs. Golden Eagles: First Meeting
Live Stats: UCSBgauchos.com

Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at Colorado State

at Moby Arena
All-time record vs. Rams: 3-2
Last meeting: L, 3-1 (Sept. 7, 2013)
Video: TheMW.com
Live Stats: UCSBgauchos.com  

Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Virginia Commonwealth (neutral)

at Moby Arena
All-time record vs. Rams: First Meeting
Live Stats: UCSBgauchos.com  

Spin-dt Doctor
Ali Spindt was voted the Big West's 2013 Freshman of the Year after leading the Gauchos with 309 kills. The outside hitter was also second on the team with 320 digs. She picked up 13 double doubles in her freshman campaign, which was easily the most on the team. Though she was a starter in all of UCSB's matches, she really hit her stride during conference play. Against Big West opponents, Spindt not only set her single-match career highs in kills (18) and digs (26), but she also increased her hitting percentage from .185 to .274.   

Coach of the Year
In just her first season at the helm, Nicole Lantagne Welch was named the Big West's Co-Coach of the Year after leading the Gauchos on a surprising run to a share of the Big West title. She has now been honored as Coach of the Year in two consecutive years, as she also earned the accolade from the ACC in her final year at Miami (2012). She is the first Gaucho coach to win the award since Kathy Gregory in 2009. 

Block Party
Last season, the Gauchos started a pair of freshmen at middle blocker which yielded a surprising payoff. Phoebe Grunt was named Honorable Mention All-Big West after leading the Big West with 120 block assists and ranking third with 131 total blocks, while Allie Sullberg had 110 block assists (fourth) and 121 total blocks (fifth in conference). In fact, the two were the only middle blocking pairing that were both in the conference's top-five for total blocks during league play.   

Right Up Their Ali
Along with Spindt, UCSB returns another First Team All-Big West outside hitter in Ali Barbeau. As a sophomore, Barbeau became one of UCSB's top attackers after a quiet freshman campaign. A starter for most of the season, the Salinas, Calif. native recorded the third-most kills on the team with 267. 

AVCA Coaches Preseason Poll
For the first time in four years, UCSB received votes in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll. In the first poll of the 2014 season, the Gauchos picked up 26 votes, the second-most among Big West teams. Hawai'i starts the season ranked No. 17, while Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State also collected 19 and 11 votes, respectively.  The last time UCSB received votes in the preseason poll was August 17, 2010 when it had 51. This weekend, the Gauchos will face one of the teams that ranked among the top-25 in Colorado State. 

It Takes Two
At setter, UCSB has played Hanna Nielson and Ali Santi together in a 6-2 rotation. With Nielson as the starter, together the two orchestrated one of the most dangerous offenses in Big West play. Behind their setters, UCSB was second in the conference with13.66 kills per set in league play along with a collective .249 hitting percentage (third). The setting tandem combined for 12.69 assists per set against Big West opponents. 

2014 Schedule
This season, UCSB will face five teams that competed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. In its season opening tournament at Colorado State, the Gauchos will face Marquette, who made it to the second round in last year's tournament, along with the Rams who fell to Cal State Northridge in five sets in the opening round. Later in their schedule, the Gauchos will face Cal who reached the second round in 2013 before they take on CSUN and Hawaii twice each during conference play. 

Tournament Preview
While UCSB has not faced Marquette or Virginia Commonwealth, it did play Colorado State in last year's Pepperdine Invitational in the second week of the season. The Gauchos fell to the Rams 3-1 that weekend. Colorado State returns three of the four players who reached double kills figures against the Gauchos last year, while UCSB will have Barbeau and Spindt who recorded 12 and 11 kills in that match, respectively. 

Fresh Faces
Following their No. 30 nationally ranked recruiting class from 2013, the UCSB coaching staff added more talent to an already promising roster with their 2014 recruiting class. At outside hitter, UCSB adds Chanel Hoffman who set Riverside County's record with 1,338 career kills. As a senior, at Santiago HS she picked up a litany of awards including: CIF Div. II Player of the Year, All-CIF Player of the Year, and Prep Volleyball All-America honors. With experience at both setter and outside hitter, Noa Nightingale arrives to UCSB after being a perennial starter on a St. Francis HS team that was ranked top-25 nationally by PrepVolleyball. At opposite, Megan Sullivan led all CIF Div. I right side hitters with a .353 hitting percentage in 2013 with St. Francis HS. At libero, UCSB will see three freshmen (Sydney Bast, Kelly Bielaski, and Jane Lamp) competing for the starting role.