Women's Volleyball Season Preview Day 4: Middle Blockers

Aug. 26, 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 Rob Gym. In this four-part preview, today we will take a look at the middle blockers in the preview finale. To see the defensive specialist/libero preview, please click here.

To see the preview on the outside hitters and opposites, please click here.

To see the preview on the setting position, please click here.

While the Gauchos already had a terrific presence in the middle with Lily Lopez and Kasey Kipp, UCSB will move 2009 All-Big West First Team pick Stacey Schmidt to the middle blocker position this season in an effort to make the Gaucho attack more potent.

Last season Schmidt finished second on the team in kills and kills per set average (2.34 per set) while hitting a team-high .330, which also ranked third in the Big West. Her abilities will transfer well to the middle blocker position, head coach Kathy Gregory says, which allows Leah Sully, Katey Thompson and Charlene DeHoog to be attacking forces on the outside.

"Physically, she hits quick," Gregory said of her decision to move Schmidt to the middle. "No one can defend her and her ability to hit the quick attack is superior. We want depth in the middle and we want all three to be ready to play."

The other two of the trifecta are Lopez and Kipp, the Gauchos' two starters at the middle last season.

Lopez was an All-Big West Freshman Team pick in 2008 and followed that up with a superb sophomore season, finishing fourth on the team in kills. She averaged 1.80 per set while hitting at a .270 clip. The Santa Ana, Calif. native led the team in blocks, averaging 0.80 per set.

"Lily is poised for a breakout year," Gregory said. "She is going to be one of the most physical middles in the league. Her speed is going to get her many kills."

Kipp returns for her senior season after placing fifth on the team in kills in 2009. She finished just below Lopez in blocks per set (0.79 per) and had some of her best performances during conference play.

"We're hoping that Kasey has a great year," Gregory said. "We are looking for her to have blocking be her signature as well as playing both positions. She can hit in both front and back and she is experienced to play both positions."

Newcomer Samm Wilson from San Jose, Calif. is on the Gauchos' depth chart, but is expected to redshirt this season.

The Gauchos will host Cincinnati on Monday, August 30 at 7 p.m. Rob Gym. 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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