No. 14 Gauchos Host Fort Wayne, Ball State in Non-League Action

Photo by Eric Isaacs
Photo by Eric Isaacs

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• The Schedule
Friday, March 9 at 7:00 PM PT
UCSB vs. Fort Wayne (13-4, 3-3 MIVA)
at Rob Gym
TV: Big West TV
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Mastodons – 19-2 / Won 6
Record vs. IPFW in McLaughlin era: 2-0
IPFW away record: 7-2
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 3 / 6-4
IPFW Streak / Last 10 – Won 4 / 6-4
Last time out: UCSB 3-0 IPFW (Jan. 7, 2017 @ UCSB)

Saturday, March 10 at 7:00 PM PT
UCSB vs. No. 10 Ball State (10-7, 4-2 MIVA)
at Rob Gym
TV: Big West TV
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Cardinals – 14-4 / Won 4
Record vs. UCSD in McLaughlin era: first meeting
Ball State away record: 4-4
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 3 / 6-4
Ball St. Streak / Last 10 – Won 5 / 6-4
Last time out: UCSB def. Ball State (Mar. 13, 1999)

• The Week Ahead
This week, UCSB hosts MIVA members Fort Wayne (formerly known as IPFW) and Ball State at Rob Gym in non-conference action. The Gauchos will take on the Mastodons on Friday night before welcoming the Cardinals on Saturday evening. Both matches are slated for 7:00 p.m. starts and will be streamed live and free of charge on 

• The Week in Review
UCSB had one of its best weeks of the season last week results-wise, scoring wins on the road over USC and UC San Diego. The Gauchos hit a season-high .386 as a team in Thursday's showdown with the Trojans at the Galen Center, a match that rescheduled from its original early-January date due to travel complications caused by the Montecito mudslides. The next night at RIMAC Arena in La Jolla, Calif., the Gauchos swept UCSD to move to a perfect 2-0 in Big West Conference play. 

• Sanders and DeWeese Earn Big West Weekly Honors
After leading UCSB to a 2-0 week, a pair of Gauchos received accolades from the league office, as sophomore opposite Keenan Sanders was named the Big West Player of the Week while sophomore setter Randy DeWeese garnered Big West Defensive Player of the Week honors. It was the second time this season that Sanders was tabbed as the league's top performer while it was the first career weekly honor for DeWeese. Sanders totaled 38 kills in seven sets (5.43/s) on .469 hitting. Despite taking more swings than any other Gaucho, he averaged just one error per set. DeWeese led the team in both blocks (11, one solo) and digs (20) while steering the team to a solid .362 hitting percentage for the week. 

• Block Party
Thanks to four consecutive 10+ block matches, UCSB now finds itself atop the conference leaderboard and fourth in the nation in team blocking at 2.61 blocks per set. The Gauchos have a trio of individual players in the Big West's top-10 led by sophomore Brandon Hopper's 1.0 blocks per set rate. 

• Rank and File
UCSB appeared in the AVCA Division I-II national poll for the seventh consecutive time this week, moving up to No. 14 after being placed at No. 15 last week. Among this week's opponents, Ball State is ranked 10th while Fort Wayne is receiving votes in the AVCA poll. 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.

• Sanders Succeeds on the Right Side
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 six of the last seven matches, including a trio of 20-kill performances highlighted by a career-high 24-kill outing against Lewis on Jan. 27. The San Diego native has been named Big West Player of the Week twice this year; UCSB has had four players of the week over the six weeks the team has been in action this year. 

• 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 .693 combined winning percentage, which is almost 100 points higher than the next-best conference (MIVA: .614). The Big West is also the only league in the country that has no teams under .500.

• 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 five schools nationwide with an opponents' winning percentage north of 60%. 

• 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 
Junior OH Corey Chavers is in the midst of a breakout season for the Gauchos, ranking in the top-10 in the Big West in both kills (3.46 per set, ninth) and aces (0.37, seventh). He has multiple aces in four of the last five matches, equaled a career-high with seven blocks last week against USC, and has a pair of 20-kill performances under his belt including a career-high 24 at then-No. 10 Pepperdine on Jan. 20. The Gauchos are 6-3 this season when Chavers reaches the 10-kill mark. 

• Yould Be Sorry You Swung Towards Him
Grady Yould has transitioned seamlessly into the starting libero spot for the Gauchos, boasting a 2.48 digs per set rate that leads the Big West and ranks 12th in the nation. His 18 digs on Mar. 2 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 0.39 aces per set rank sixth in the league, he has chipped in at least three kills in seven matches, is hitting .500, and has the most blocks (41) on the team. He's been solid in the back-row as well, posting three straight 10+ dig matches to give him a team-high four double-doubles on the campaign. His modest 8.11 assists per set average jumps to 9.82 when discounting the two matches this season he didn't start.