August 23, 2010

Women's Volleyball Season Preview: Libero and Defensive Specialists

Aug. 23, 2010

Coming off of one of its best seasons in recent memory - a 22-8 overall record and a 27th NCAA Tournament appearance - the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team returns five starters to its talented squad, a group that is currently receiving votes in the preseason Top-25 poll.

The Gauchos open their season on Friday, August 27 at the Cal Molten Classic and the team begins its home schedule on Monday, August 30 when they face Cincinnati at 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome. In this four-part preview, today we will take a look at the libero and defensive specialists that are part of the Gauchos' roster.

One of the team's starting returners is libero Chelsey Lowe, who is entering her junior season and her second in the blue and gold. Last season Lowe took on the libero position after transferring as an outside hitter from the University of San Francisco and was extremely successful for the Gauchos.

Lowe, who hails from Yorba Linda, Calif., averaged a team-high 3.71 digs per set, which was eighth in the Big West. Lowe tallied 442 total digs which was more than 100 more than the next closest UCSB player. Lowe was an integral part of the Gauchos' 22 wins, as she was one of just four players to see action in every set last season.

"Chelsey has improved physically and has gotten stronger," said head coach Kathy Gregory. "We have set higher standards for her - to pass with a quicker rhythm. She has worked on her ball control and she should be our top defensive player."

Aiding Lowe in the back will be returner Katie Ring. The junior from Portola Valley, Calif. saw action in 22 matches last season, as a defensive substitute and serving specialist and will likely see her role expand this year.

"She continues to be a defensive specialist and serving specialist for us," Gregory said. "She will be a spark off the bench."

A pair of newcomers join Lowe and Ring as defensive specialists/liberos.

Freshman Kelly Heenan comes from the very successful Newport Harbor High, helping her team win the state title last season. Heenan was a First Team All-Orange County selection last season and was a Top 250 Preseason All-American.

"She comes with a great background," Gregory said. "Newport Harbor is one of the most competitive programs. Physically, she has the prototype of a great defensive player. She will be a player in the back row this season."

Coming from nearby Santa Barbara City College is junior Jake Kelly, who will see court time after serving as the starting libero for SBCC.

"She will add depth to the position," Gregory said.

The Gauchos will host Cincinnati on Monday, August 30 at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome. To purchase tickets, please call (805) 893-UCSB, visit the Ticket Office located inside the Intercollegiate Athletics building on campus or buy online and print at home by clicking here.

The Intercollegiate Athletics Ticket Office has two parking spaces adjacent to the building and is now open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., making it easier than ever for fans to purchase tickets. The two parking spots, designated specifically for the Ticket Office, are also available during weekday hours, which are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Gaucho Fund, launched as part of the Dare to Be Great strategic plan, is UCSB Athletics' annual giving program to provide vital funding support for scholarships, academic success and leadership development for Gaucho student-athletes. The Gaucho Fund is the anchor to the Dare to Be Great campaign.

GKids is the official kids club of UCSB Athletics. Members receive a free GKids t-shirt, free admittance to tons of Gaucho games, opportunities to be ball boys and girls at games, a special birthday greeting from Olie (the GKids mascot) and much, much more! For more information on GKids, or to become a member, please click here.

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