Gauchos Face Final Nonconference Opponents of 2014 in UC Santa Cruz, Concordia

Austin Kingi (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Austin Kingi (Photo by Tony Mastres)

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• The Schedule
Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.
No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (1-0) vs. UC Santa Cruz (0-0)
at Rob Gym
Series record vs. UCSC – 14-0
Streak vs the Banana Slugs – Won 14
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 1
UCSC Streak Overall – N/A
Last time out vs. the Banana Slugs – W, 3-0 (2/15/08)

Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (1-0) vs. Concordia (3-1)
at Rob Gym
Series record vs. the Eagles – 2-0
Streak vs. the Eagles – Won 2
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 1
Concordia Streak Overall – Won 3
Last time out vs. the Cardinals – W, 3-0 (3/26/13)

• The Week In Review
UCSB opened the 2013 season with a successful effort as hosts in the 50th annual Asics Invitational tournament, tying for the best record in their five-team pool on day one before sweeping UCSD on day two for a third place finish in the ten-team event. In Friday's exhibition pool play round, the Gauchos collected wins over Pacific, Stanford, and Cal State Northridge, and losing only to Harvard, who tied UCSB with a 3-1 record but advanced to the championship match on a tiebreaker. In Saturday's third place match, sophomore setter Jonah Seif led the Gauchos to victory with four of the team's service aces, a team-high seven blocks, and 30 assists evenly distributed so that UCSB's three outsides each took between 16-21 swings. UCLA import Matt Hanley led all players with 10 kills in his UCSB debut.

• Welcome Back
The 2014 roster sees the Gauchos return starters at each position, including key 2013 contributors such as Seif, opposite hitter Evan Licht, libero Chad Kingi, outside hitter Austin Kingi, and middle blocker Jake Staahl. Overall, UCSB returns 12 letterwinners this season.

• Keep the Good Times Rolling
After rebounding from an early season slump last year, the Gauchos found themselves in the MPSF Tournament for the second time in three years, falling to eventual national champion UC Irvine in five games. This year, UCSB is trying to appear in the postseason for consecutive years for the first time since 2006-07.

• All-Tourney Talent
Playing key roles on Friday and leading the team in their respective statistical categories on Saturday, both Matt Hanley (10 kills, nine digs) and middle blocker Ryan Thompson (seven blocks, four kills, .500 hitting percentage) were named to the All-Asics Invitational Tournament Team.

• Davis Departs
Though they are returning all but two starters, the Gauchos lost an important one in middle blocker Dylan Davis. The All-American and 2013 Off the Block National Blocker of the Year set a program mark in career block assists (384) while ranking third in career total blocks (441) and single-season hitting percentage (.488, 2011). He had one of the most memorable performances all-time by a Gaucho with a record .882 hitting percentage on 15 kills in the 2011 NCAA tournament semifinal against USC. Jake Staahl and Ryan Thompson will be tasked with replacing that production.

• Seif Ready for the Spotlight
Despite ranking fourth in the conference last season in assists as a freshman, setter Jonah Seif worked hard over the summer and fall to improve other areas in his game. Already a sound passer with 171 digs last season – second-most on the team – he will look to use his 6-8 frame to be more of a presence at the net and at the service line. If his career-high four aces and seven blocks (second-most in his career) in the season's first match are any indication, Seif could rise to be one of the best all-around setters in the MPSF.

• Sad to See You Go
Besides Davis, the Gauchos said goodbye to two other 2013 contributors, Grant Goswiller and Miles Evans. Goswiller, a member of the 2011 NCAA Tournament team, a reserve for most of his career, started each of the final 11 games last year, recording a career high 15 kills in the MPSF Tournament against UC Irvine. Evans, the team-leader in kills in 2012, battled injuries for the majority of last season, missing nine matches entirely, and recording double-digit kills just seven times.

• Irons Returns to the Gauchos
After a stellar four-year career with UCSB, former opposite hitter Cullen Irons was hired as an assistant coach this past summer. Irons, a member of UCSB's Final Four team of 2011, will replace Vince Devany, his 2011 teammate, who has signed a contract to play professional volleyball in Belgium. He had at least 250 kills and 100 digs in all three of his years as a starter at UCSB.