Men's Volley Set to Host CSUN in Crucial MPSF Battle

Men's Volley Set to Host CSUN in Crucial MPSF Battle

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• The Schedule
Wedneday, Mar. 8 at 7 PM PT
No. 15 UCSB vs. No. 11 Cal State Northridge (12-7, 5-7 MPSF)
at Rob Gym
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Matadors – 52-40 / Won 3
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 1 / 2-8
CSUN Streak / Last 10 – Lost 1 / 6-4
Last time out: UCSB 3-0 CSUN (3/26/16 @ CSUN)

Saturday, Mar. 11 at 7 PM PT
No. 15 UCSB vs. No. 5 Lewis (15-3)
at Rob Gym
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Flyers – 5-3 / Lost 1
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 1 / 2-8
Lewis Streak / Last 10 – Won 7 / 9-1
Last time out: Lewis 3-1 UCSB (1/2/16 @ Lewis)

Monday, Mar. 13 at 7 PM PT
No. 15 UCSB vs. Harvard (5-7)
at Rob Gym
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Crimson – 3-0 / Won 3
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 1 / 2-8
Harvard Streak / Last 10 – Lost 1 / 5-5
Last time out: UCSB 3-0 Harvard (3/15/13 @ UCSB)

Wednesday, Mar. 15 at 7 PM PT
No. 15 UCSB vs. Concordia University Irvine (13-7)
at Rob Gym
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Eagles – 4-0 / Won 4
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 1 / 2-8
CUI Streak / Last 10 – Won 4 / 8-2
Last time out: UCSB 3-1 CUI (3/9/16 @ UCSB)

• The Week Ahead
With just one home match on their slate since the beginning of February, UC Santa Barbara this week prepares for a heavy schedule at Rob Gym, playing four matches in seven days starting on Wednesday against conference rival CSUN. The Gauchos follow up with a showdown against MIVA power Lewis on Saturday before tackling Harvard and Concordia Irvine early next week in non-conference battles. The CSUN match is a make-up for the Feb. 27 contest that was rescheduled due to a weather-caused closure on the 101 North.

• The Week in Review
UCSB last week traveled to Happy Valley for the first time since playing the 2011 National Championship match, participating in the 2017 Penn State Tournament. The Gauchos dropped a four-set decision to the host Nittany Lions on Friday before rebounding for a three-game sweep of Conference Carolinas-member Lees-McRae on Saturday. Hayden Boehle (10 kills, 12 digs) was UCSB's top performer against PSU, while freshman opposite Spencer Fredrick set a new career-high with a dozen kills. Keenan Sanders took over with 11 kills and five aces to lead a dominant sweep over LMC, which hit just .068 in the loss.

• Rank and File
With its 1-1 week, UCSB dropped to No. 15 in this week's AVCA Men's Division I-II poll. Meanwhile, CSUN checked in at No. 11 while Lewis was No. 5. Harvard and Concordia Irvine are both unranked.

• California Boys
As is usually the case, the 2017 UCSB men's volleyball team is comprised solely of California natives. The Gauchos are the only NCAA Division I-II team made up entirely of players from California.

• Non-Conference, No Problem
UCSB has thrived in out-of-league competition since the beginning of 2015, sporting a 14-4 record over that span (.778 winning percentage). The Gauchos are 41-20 against non-conference foes all-time under Rick McLaughlin (.672).

• Wednesday's Battle Key for UCSB's Playoff Hopes
UCSB finds itself in the thick of a heated race for the last two playoff spots in the MPSF, as only 1.5 games separate seventh-place CSUN from the 10th place Gauchos. Thus, Wednesday's battle with the Matadors – and the Mar. 31 contest against ninth place USC – are the two most important matches left this season for UCSB. The top eight teams in the MPSF make the annual conference tournament.

• Young Middles Stepping Up
UCSB's two starting middles, freshman Keenan Sanders and sophomore Connor Drake, have both had standout years for the Gauchos. Sanders has been getting it done on the offensive side, recording at least nine kills and hitting over .450 in four straight matches, including a career-best 14 kills on .632 hitting against UC Irvine. His .437 hitting percentage ranks sixth in the MPSF. Drake meanwhile has been a force at the net, as his 1.21 blocks per set ranks second in the league. He has seven or more roofs in three out of UCSB's last five matches.

• Excellin' Delson
Though he sat out UCSB's two matches last week, senior Jacob Delson has been one of top statistical hitters in the country this season, recording a 4.43 kills per set average that ranks second in the nation among qualified players. In his last outing, Delson notched 34 kills against UC Irvine, becoming just the second Gaucho in the McLaughlin era (since 2008) to reach that mark and the first since Jeff Menzel in 2010.

• Big West Adds Men's Volleyball
2017 will be the last season in the MPSF for UCSB, as the Gauchos will be an inaugural member when the Big West Conference adds men's volleyball for the 2018 season. They will be joined by Hawaii, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, CSUN, and UC San Diego.

• Bright Future
Though the team only returned two starters from last season, the future looks bright for the Gauchos, as the coaching staff brought in the No. 5 ranked recruiting class this season. Three freshmen, middle Keenan Sanders and setters Casey McGarry and Randy DeWeese, have received heavy playing time already.