No. 14 UCSB Set to Battle Cougars on BYU TV

Photo by Eric Isaacs
Photo by Eric Isaacs

• The Schedule
Friday, February 2 at 6:00 PM PT
Saturday, February 3 at 6:00 PM PT
UCSB vs. No. 6 BYU (5-3)
at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah
TV: BYU TV
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Cougars – 23-42 / Lost 6
Record vs. BYU in McLaughlin era: 5-17
Record at Smith Fieldhouse in McLaughlin era: 2-9
UCSB Streak / Form – Lost 2 / L W W L L
BYU Streak / Last 10 – Lost 2 / W W W L L 
Last time out: BYU 3-0 UCSB (4/7/17 @ UCSB)

• The Week Ahead
This week, UCSB flies to Utah for two consecutive matches at sixth-ranked Brigham Young University on Friday and Saturday night, with both contests slated for 6:00 p.m. PT first serves. The pair of showdowns against the Gauchos' former conference-mate will be televised on BYU TV (Cox Cable channel 150, DirecTV channel 374) and streamed online at BYUTV.org (valid cable subscription required).

• The Week in Review
Embarking on a trip to Illinois to take on MIVA powers Loyola-Chicago and Lewis, UCSB came up empty in a pair of top-10 matchups, falling in four games to both opponents. The Gauchos received 18 kills from then-reigning Big West Player of the Week Corey Chavers and a further nine from Brandon Hopper at No. 7 LUC on Thursday, but couldn't overcome a balanced Ramblers attack. Keenan Sanders, in his second match back from injury, erupted for 24 kills against No. 10 Lewis on Saturday, but the Flyers nearly doubled up the Gauchos in the blocking department en route to a .283-.191 hitting percentage advantage.   

• Rank and File
UCSB appeared in the AVCA Division I-II national poll for the second consecutive time this week, moving up to No. 14 after debuting at No. 15 last week. The Gauchos had received votes in the first two polls of the season. This week's opponent, BYU, comes in at No. 6 and has been ranked as high as No. 3 nationally. UCSB will have played against a top-10 ranked team in six consecutive matches after this weekend's action. 

• Youl-d Season
He showed his potential in limited playing time as a true freshman, and now sophomore Grady Yould is excelling as the team's starting libero. The Laguna Niguel, Calif. native has logged double-digit digs in three consecutive matches to take over the conference lead with a 2.52 digs per set average. Arguably his best performance so far this year came last Thursday at Loyola, as he notched a season-high 15 digs, tied for the most single-match digs by any Big West player to this point in the season. He has been a Big West Defensive Player of the Week nominee twice this season. 

• Sanders Makes His Return
After missing the first three weeks of the season due to injury, sophomore middle/opposite Keenan Sanders excelled in his return to the floor last week. He started in the middle against Loyola and knocked down nine kills on just 17 swings, including a 4-1-5 line in the first game. Lining up at opposite against Lewis, he exploded with the top offensive performance of his career, recording 24 kills (previous high was 14) including nine in the first game alone. Sanders was a Freshman All-American in 2017 after averaging 2.22 kills on .373 hitting for the year.

• Club 24
Entering the season, only three Gauchos had ever notched 24 kills in a match in the 25-point rally scoring era (since 2009). Now that exclusive club has two more members, as Chavers and Sanders have reached the 24-kill mark in consecutive weekends. Chavers landed 24 kills at Pepperdine on Jan. 20 in a 3-1 Gaucho win, earning him conference weekly player of the week honors. Then last Saturday at Lewis, Sanders reached 24 to mark just the second time in the McLaughlin era (also since 2009) that two teammates both had 24 single-match kills in one season (last: Jeff Menzel and Cullen Irons: 2009). The other member of UCSB's Club 24 is Jacob Delson (2016). 

• Chavers Stepping Up 
In his junior season, Chavers is clearly UCSB's go-to pin hitter, as he has nearly twice as many swings (226) as the next Gaucho (Roy McFarland: 118). A junior from Downey, Calif., he is taking advantage of that high volume with a 3.78 kills per set average which ranks third in the Big West and seventh in the nation among qualified players. 

• Newcomers Make Their Debut
A pair of Gaucho newcomers made their season debuts last week in Illinois. Freshman outside hitter and Santa Barbara native Henry Hancock knocked down five kills on 20 swings while co-leading the team with a pair of aces against Lewis, while Orange Coast College transfer Matt Ujkic recorded a pair of kills on seven swings at Loyola. 

• Aces High
The Gauchos have out-aced their opponents 38-28 overall this season, and have won the ace battle in five of six matches this season. UCSB's biggest serving advantages came against NJIT (9-5) and Stanford (7-4). UCSB has a pair of servers in the league's top-10 for aces per game, including sophomore setter Randy DeWeese (0.48 per game, third in the Big West) and Chavers (0.35, ninth). DeWeese's average would be even higher – 0.60 per set to be exact, which would be fifth in the nation – if you discounted the matches he didn't start and thus didn't play full sets. 

• Road Warriors
This week's contests mark the end of a five-match, three-week road trip for UCSB. The Gauchos were originally scheduled for a seven-match, four-week trek until Mother Nature caused the rescheduling of matches originally set for Jan. 12 and Jan. 13. The team's next home match is on Feb. 21 against Pepperdine; the 46-day gap between home matchups is the longest of the McLaughlin era (since 2009). 

• Steadfast at Smith
Smith Fieldhouse is a notoriously tough venue for away teams, as BYU has accrued a 94-16 record (.855 winning percentage) on their home floor over the past eight seasons. Despite that, UCSB has traditionally picked up some big wins in Provo, including an MPSF Tournament Semifinal victory in 2011 en route to the NCAA title game – the only win by an away team at BYU that season – and a come-from-behind 3-2 win during the 2012 season. 

• California Boys
As is usually the case, the 2018 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.