Gauchos Open MPSF Play With Stanford, Pacific

Kevin Donohue (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Kevin Donohue (Photo by Tony Mastres)

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• The Schedule

Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 11 UC Santa Barbara (1-0) vs. Pacific (1-2)
at Rob Gym
Series record vs. Pacific – 23-14
Streak vs the Tigers – Won 1
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 1
UOP Streak Overall – Lost 2
Last time out vs. the Tigers – W, 3-0 (3/9/13)

Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 11 UC Santa Barbara (1-0) vs. No. 1 Stanford (3-0)
at Rob Gym
Series record vs. Stanford – 44-31
Streak vs. the Cardinal – Won 1
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 1
Stanford Streak Overall – Won 3
Last time out vs. the Cardinal – W, 3-0 (3/8/13)

• The Week In Review
After finishing third in the 50th annual UCSB Asics Invitational, the Gauchos pulled off exhibition sweeps of UC Santa Cruz and Concordia last week. Against UCSC, the Gauchos were led by Matt Hanley and Ryan Thompson, who had eight kills each and helped the team to a .420 hitting percentage for the match. Weston Nielsen got into the match in the third set and proceeded to tally seven kills, two aces, and three blocks in his game of action. In the win over Concordia, Nielsen played well again, leading the team with 11 kills. Senior opposite Evan Licht was just behind with 10 kills of his own. Sophomore setter Jonah Seif had 71 assists in six games over the weekend, showing that he is already building chemistry with UCSB's deep stable of attacking options.

• 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.

• Saying Goodbye to Pacific
Barring a playoff matchup, this Friday's contest will represent the last time the University of the Pacific men's volleyball team will play at UC Santa Barbara. The Tigers will be cutting their program at the conclusion of the 2014 season.

• Off On the Right Foot
The Gauchos will be looking to have a better start in conference play after winning just one of their first seven MPSF matches a season ago. Their 10-7 record in league play to follow up that early skid proved that UCSB was able to hang with its MPSF rivals and that their struggles may have been an abberation. Having won their past nine sets, the Gauchos will look to roll that momentum into this weekend's contests.

• 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, and has the eighth most career digs (575) in program history.