UCSB Travels South for Contests at USC, UCSD

Photo by Eric Isaacs
Photo by Eric Isaacs

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• The Schedule
Thursday, March 1 at 7:00 PM PT
UCSB vs. USC (4-12, 1-3 MPSF)
at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
TV: USC Live Stream
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Trojans – 63-55 / Lost 1
Record vs. USC in McLaughlin era: 9-11 (7-2 since 2013)
Away record vs. USC in McLaughlin era: 3-6
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 1 / 5-5
USC Streak / Last 10 – Lost 5 / 1-9
Last time out: USC 3-0 (Mar. 31, 2018 @ USC)

Friday, March 2 at 7:00 PM PT
UCSB vs. UC San Diego (8-7, 0-1 Big West)
at RIMAC Arena in La Jolla, Calif.
TV: Big West TV
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Tritons – 39-8 / Won 11
Record vs. UCSD in McLaughlin era: 15-6
Away record vs. UCSD in McLaughlin era: 4-3 (won four straight)
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 1 / 5-5
UCSD Streak / Last 10 – Lost 1 / 4-6
Last time out: UCSB 3-2 UCSD (Feb. 23, 2018 @ UCSB)

• The Week Ahead
This week, UCSB travels south for its first road matches in just under a month, taking on USC in a Thursday night contest at the Galen Center before facing UC San Diego in a Big West re-match on Friday. This is the Gauchos' first matchup with the Trojans this season; the two were originally slated to face off on Jan. 13 but had to reschedule due to travel complications caused by the Montecito mudslides. The Gauchos played UCSD last Friday, Feb. 23, and survived for a five-set win in the first Big West match in league history. 

• The Week in Review
UCSB played its first two five-set matches of the season last week, falling at home to No. 10 Pepperdine on Wednesday before bouncing back with a dramatic victory over UCSD at Rob Gym, squandering a 2-0 lead but eventually pulling through in five. 

• Rank and File
UCSB appeared in the AVCA Division I-II national poll for the sixth consecutive time this week, dropping to No. 15 after being No. 13 last week. Both of this week's opponents are unranked, though UCSD received votes. UCSB played seven straight matches against top-10 opponents from Jan. 6 to Feb. 21, the longest such stretch of any NCAA team in 2018.

• Big West Doesn't Miss A Beat
Though 2018 is the first season of Big West men's volleyball, all indications are that the league will be a powerhouse on the national scene. The Big West has a .705 combined winning percentage, which is almost 100 points higher than the next-best conference (MIVA: .608). The Big West is also the only league in the country that has no teams under .500.

• Drake Breaks Out
Arguably no Gaucho had a better two-match performance last week than redshirt junior Connor Drake, who totaled 17 kills on .424 hitting and eight blocks. His best outing came against the Tritons, as he posted a career-high 12 kills – including three kills on three swings in the decisive fifth set – on .417 hitting. For his efforts, Drake was a Big West Player of the Week nominee.

• Battle Tested
Entering the weekend, UCSB has the single-toughest season schedule of any NCAA team. The Gauchos' past and future opponents have combined for a .633 winning percentage, highest in the country. UCSB is one of just six schools nationwide with an opponents' winning percentage north of 60%. 

• Volleyball Oddity
A strange thing happened to the Gauchos as last week, as they were felled by Pepperdine despite outhitting the Waves (.246 to .190) but beat UCSD despite losing the hitting percentage battle (.180 to .200). The team with the higher percentage in UCSB's matches was 8-0 prior to last week. 

• Sanders Makes His Return
A freshman All-American (2.22 K/S, .373 hitting percentage) as a middle blocker in 2017, sophomore Keenan Sanders has made a successful transition to the right side this season, posting 3.88 kills per set since his season debut on Jan. 25. He has led the Gauchos in kills in four of the last five matches, including a career-high 24 kills at Lewis on Jan. 27. He was named Big West Player of the Week on Feb. 5 after leading UCSB to its first sweep at BYU since the 1996 season (team-high 11 kills, .391 H%).

• 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 Corey Chavers and Sanders 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 on Jan. 27 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 in 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 left side hitter, as he has nearly twice as many swings (360) as the next Gaucho (Roy McFarland: 186). A junior from Downey, Calif., he is taking advantage of that high volume with a 3.54 kills per set average which ranks sixth in the Big West and 15th in the nation among qualified players. He was voted Big West Player of the Week on Jan. 22 after knocking down 24 kills in UCSB's first matchup with Pepperdine. In fact, the Gauchos have had the conference's player of the week in two of the five weeks they've been in action this season.

• Yould Be Sorry You Swung Towards Him
Grady Yould has transitioned seamlessly into the starting libero spot for the Gauchos, boasting a 2.56 digs per set rate that leads the Big West and ranks ninth in the nation. His 18 digs on Friday against UCSD equaled a career-best and set a new single-match high for any Big West player. Along with his pair of 15-dig performances earlier this season, he has the three highest single-match dig outputs by a Big West player in 2018. 

• DeWeese Does it All
A sophomore standing 6-6, Randy DeWeese is impacting the match with more than just his setting. His 0.36 aces per set rank seventh in the league, he has chipped in at least three kills in five matches (including a 4-0-4 performance against UCSD), is hitting .500, and has the most blocks (30, tied with Corey Chavers) on the team. His 7.62 assists per set average jumps to 9.58 when discounting matches he didn't start. 

• 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.