Sixth-Ranked Gauchos Wrap Up Road Swing With UC Irvine, UC San Diego

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• The Schedule
Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 6 UCSB (9-4, 8-4) vs. No. 9 UC Irvine (10-8, 7-7)
at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif.
Series record vs. UCI – 45-26
Streak vs. the Anteaters – Lost 8
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 1
UCI Streak Overall – Won 1
Last time out – L, 3-2 @ UCSB (1/25/14)

Saturday, Mar. 1, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 6 UCSB (9-4, 8-4) vs. UC San Diego (0-15, 0-14)
at the RIMAC Arena in La Jolla, Calif.
Series record vs. UCSD – 29-8
Streak vs. the Tritons – Lost 1
UCSB Streak Overall – Won 1
UCSD Streak Overall – Lost 15
Last time out – L, 3-0 @ UCSD (2/15/13)

• The Week In Review
UCSB kicked off a four-match homestand last week by falling at ninth-ranked Stanford before sweeping Pacific. The Gauchos struggled mightily against the Cardinal in a Friday night sweep, recording their lowest hitting percentage of the season at .011. They also failed to record a service ace for the first time since Mar. 30, 2012. The team rebounded strongly against the Tigers the following night, dominating on the road for a 3-0 sweep. Coupled with a win over Pacific at home earlier this season, UCSB has now swept the season series from the Tigers for the first time since 2010. It was the team's first win in Stockton since 2011. Senior Evan Licht and Matt Hanley led the UCSB offense in the win, striking for 15 kills each. Licht also finished with an impressive .542 hitting percentage.

• California Dreaming
UC Santa Barbara is the only squad in NCAA men's volleyball to have a team comprised solely of players from California. All 19 players on Rick McLaughlin's team were raised in the Golden State, stretching from Nevada City in the north (Bobby Curtis) to Coto de Caza in the south (Spencer Buckley).

• Poll Report
After reaching their highest spot in the AVCA poll since 2011 last week at No. 5, the Gauchos dropped to No. 6 in this week's rankings after their 1-1 split up north.

• Hot Start
With records of 9-4 overall, 8-4 in conference, and 7-1 at home, the Gauchos are off to a historically good start. Their 8-3 mark is their best since the 2007 team, when the Ken Preston-led Gauchos went 12-3 out of the gate. Similarly, their 7-3 start to the conference schedule is their best since 2007. UCSB's home dominance is even more notable, as the program has jumped out to the best eight-match start to a home schedule in the MPSF era (since '93).

• Energy Needed Early
The first set has proved to be a good indicator of success in UCSB's matches so far in 2014. The winner of the first set in matches involving the Gauchos has gone 11-2 this year.

• Dependent on Digs
Moreso than any other statistic, an advantage in digs has been the best predictor of a winner in UCSB's matches. The Gauchos are undefeated in the eight matches where they have outdug their opponents, but are just 1-4 in matches where they are outdug. Chad Kingi is the only Gaucho among the top-15 diggers in the MPSF at 97 scoops, but Jonah Seif (93), Evan Licht (84) and Austin Kingi (79) are all knocking on the door.

• Top Defense
As they have the majority of the season, the Gauchos currently sport the best defense in the MPSF with a .206 opponents' hitting percentage. UCSB is actuall far away from the pack in this category, as their .027 advantage over second-best USC (.233) is larger that USC's lead on ninth-best Hawai'i (.256).

• Block Party
At 2.68 blocks per set, the Gauchos currently rank fifth in the conference in that category. UCSB boasts two players in the top-10 conference-wide in roofs: Jake Staahl (fifth, 1.30 per game) and Ryan Thompson (eighth, 1.21). They are one of three team's with two players in the top-10.  

• Gauchos Looking to Break Streak Against UCI
The Anteaters – two-time defending national champions – have been a consistent thorn in the Gauchos' side over the past four years, as UCI has claimed eight straight wins over UCSB. That is by far the program's longest current losing streak against one opponent. In fact, only two other schools have active winnings streaks against the Gauchos (BYU and Ohio State, both two matches). UCSB has taken the Anteaters to five games in their past two matchups, including the first round of last season's MPSF Tournament. To win, UCSB will have to limit Zack La Cavera, who had six aces against the Gauchos earlier this year and led the team with 19 kills in last season's playoff contest.