No. 12 UCSB Set for Inaugural Big West Tournament

(Photo by Eric Isaacs)
(Photo by Eric Isaacs)

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• The Schedule
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2018 at 7:30 PM PT
No. 12 UCSB vs. No. 9 CSUN
Big West Tournament
Walter Pyramid - Long Beach, Calif.
TV: WatchESPN
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Matadors – 54-41 / Won 1
Overall record vs. CSUN in McLaughlin era: 12-11
CSUN Streak / Last 10 – Won 2 / 7-3
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Lost 1 / 3-7
Last time out: UCSB 3-1 CSUN (3/31/18 @ UCSB)

Friday, Apr. 20, 2018 at 7:30 PM PT
UCSB/CSUN vs. No. 1 Long Beach State

• The Week Ahead
The inaugural Big West Men's Volleyball Tournament will commence this Thursday as the No. 5 seeded UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team takes on No. 4 seed CSUN in a first round matchup on Thursday, Apr. 19 at 7:30 p.m. No. 3 seed UC Irvine matches up against No. 6 UC San Diego in the other first round battle while No. 1 Long Beach State and No. 2 Hawai'i have byes in the opening round. The winner of UCSB/CSUN will play LBSU while the UCI/UCSD winner will play UH. All games will be held at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif. and will air on WatchESPN. 

• The Week in Review
The Gauchos are coming off a thrilling week in which they upset No. 3 UC Irvine in a five-set thriller at Rob Gym before the Anteaters responded with a 3-0 sweep in a battle at the Bren Events Center. It was UCSB's second win over UCI since the 2011 season, however, they have been historically even matches with five of the last nine going into the fifth set. On Thursday, every single set was decided by just two points going 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 15-13 in favor of the Gauchos. Roy McFarland had a big night with 16 kills for UCSB while Keenan Sanders also reached double-figures with 10. Brandon Hopper added nine kills while Casey McGarry dished out 34 assists to go with 12 digs for the double-double. 

• Gauchos Land Four on All-Big West Team
The inaugural Big West Men's Volleyball All-Conference Team was announced on Monday, and UC Santa Barbara landed four selections highlighted by First Team honoree Corey Chavers. Keenan Sanders and Connor Drake earned Honorable Mention while Jack Truman was named to the All-Freshman Team. Chavers led UCSB witg 255 kills while averaging 3.27 kills per set to rank Top-10 in the Big West in each category. Sanders finished the regular season with 247 kills in 19 matches and led the team with 3.58 kills per set. Drake led the Gauchos with 75 total blocks, averaging nearly one (0.99) per set, and Truman averaged 0.90 blocks per set in 12 matches. 

• Matadors Matchup
UCSB split a pair of meetings with CSUN this season, with both team winning 3-1 on its home court. The Gauchos fell 3-1 (16-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-23) at the Matadome before responding with a 3-1 (25-21, 25-23, 19-25, 25-17) victory in Rob Gym. The Matadors are led by senior opposite Arvis Greene, who has a team-high 349 kills while averaging 4.59 kills per set. Sam Porter handles most of the setting duties with 678 assists on the year and Josiah Byers leads CSUN with 86 total blocks.  

• Serve It Like It's Hot
While UCSB has done well generally in the serving department as a team – UCSB's 1.29 aces per set ranks in the top-30 nationally – the team has been buoyed by the standout work of Randy DeWeese and Corey Chavers, who both rank in the top-five league-wide for aces per set. UCSB is the only Big West school that boasts two players in the top-five, and one of just three programs with a pair in the top-10. DeWeese ranks third in the league and 27th in the nation with a 0.39 aces per set ratio and matched his season-high with four aces against CSUN last Saturday. Chavers, meanwhile, ranks fourth in the conference at 0.385.

• 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 3.58 kills per set since his season debut on Jan. 25, good for sixth in the league. He has led the Gauchos in kills in 11 of the last 17 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 in 2018.

• Battle Tested
Entering the weekend, UCSB has the third-toughest season schedule out of all NCAA teams. The Gauchos' past and future opponents have combined for a .600 winning percentage. UCSB is one of just three schools nationwide with an opponents' winning percentage north of 60%. Lewis leads all schools with a .606 percentage and USC is second at .605.

• Yould Be Sorry You Swung Towards Him
Grady Yould has transitioned seamlessly into the starting libero spot for the Gauchos, boasting a 2.15 digs per set rate that has led the league for most of the season (now third, just .23 behind leader David Parker of UC Irvine) and ranks 27th nationally. His 18 digs on Mar. 2 against UCSD equaled a career-best and set a new single-match high for any Big West player. 

• 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.