No. 3 UCSB Returns to Action against No. 12 CSUN

Photo by Jeff Liang
Photo by Jeff Liang

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The Schedule
Friday, Mar. 29, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Saturday, Mar. 30, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. in Northridge, Calif.
No. 3 UC Santa Barbara (15-5) vs. No. 12 CSUN (10-10)
All-time Record / Streak vs. the Matadors: 54-42 /  L1
CSUN Streak / Last 10 – Lost 2 / 5-5
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Lost 2 / 8-2
2018 Series: CSUN def. UCSB, 3-1 @ CSUN on Mar. 30, 2018
UCSB def. CSUN, 3-1 @ UCSB on Mar. 31, 2018
CSUN def. UCSB, 3-1 @ Big West Tournament on Apr. 19, 2018

The Week Ahead
The No. 3 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team returns from a two-week break in the action to take on No. 12 CSUN for a pair of matches this week. The Gauchos will host the Matadors in Rob Gym on Friday, Mar. 29 at 7:00 p.m. and travel to CSUN on Saturday, Mar. 30 for a 7:00 p.m. start. Both matches will be available to stream through BigWest.TV and have live stats available. 

Gauchos Push No. 1 Long Beach to the Limit
UCSB had its rally scoring era program record 12-match win streak snapped two weeks ago in a clash against No. 1 Long Beach State. On Mar. 14 in the Walter Pyramid, the Gauchos became the first team to push the Beach to a fifth set all season, after the 49ers had only lost one set all year. UCSB came right back the next night at home and pushed LBSU to the brink once again, nearly forcing another five-set match with a 24-21 lead in the fourth, but eventually fell 3-1. Long Beach showed its resilience scoring five straight points in that fourth set, and staved off six consecutive match points from UCSB in the second set, to avoid letting the Gauchos take a 2-0 lead. Both of the first two sets went 31-29 in a thrilling affair in front of a near capacity crowd of 1,378 in Rob Gym. Both Corey Chavers and Spencer Fredrick had 16 kills apiece while Casey McGarry notched a double-double with 44 assists and 11 digs. 

I'll Have a Double-Double Please
One match after posting his first double-double of the season with 10 kills and 10 digs against Lindenwood, Spencer Fredrick went for 17 kills and 10 digs in a five-set thriller at No. 1 Long Beach State. Casey McGarry produced a double-double of his own the very next night with 44 assists and 11 dig, giving UCSB its sixth and seventh double-doubles of the year. McGarry leads the team with three while Randy DeWeese and Fredrick now have two apiece. 

Poll Position
After climbing one spot each week for the past three weeks, UCSB held steady at No. 3 in the most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Poll. It is the highest ranking of the season and highest ranking since the Gauchos also reached No. 3 back in 2015. The highest ranking the Gauchos have reached in the rally-scoring era was No. 2 in the final poll of the 2011 season, after finishing as the National Runner-Ups. The top three programs, and four of the top seven, all reside in the Big West Conference. Hawai'i took over the No. 1 spot for the first time this season after No. 2 Long Beach State was swept by USC. Pepperdine and UCLA come in at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, while UC Irvine has slipped down to No. 7. Rounding out the Big West Conference teams in the poll is this week's opponent, No. 12 CSUN. 

Matchup with the Matadors
This is the first meeting between the Gauchos and CSUN this season after playing three times in 2018 with the Matadors taking two of three, including a 3-1 victory in the first round of the Big West Tournament. The Gauchos hold a 54-42 all-time advantage in the series. No. 12 CSUN is 10-10 on the year, coming off a pair of 3-0 sweeps at the hands of then No. 2 Hawai'i. The Matadors are led by senior outside hitter Dimitar Kalchev, who has 249 kills for an average of 3.36 kills per set. Redshirt freshman Taylor Ittner handles the setting duties with 673 assists (9.75 a/s) on the year. 

Chavers Leading the Charge
Senior outside hitter Corey Chavers is having a phenomenal season by all acounts, already a three-time Big West Player of the Week, AVCA National Player of the Week and Off the Block's National Outside Attacker of the Week, twice. Chavers had a 10 consecutive match streak with double-digit kills earlier in the season and has almost reached his kill total from last season with six matches remaining. For the season, he leads the team by far with 274 kills (3.61 k/s) and 33 service aces. Not a one-trick pony, Chavers is also among the team leaders in digs (79) and total blocks (40). 

Battle Tested
Overall this season, Santa Barbara has played 14 AVCA Top-15 ranked opponents, going 9-5 against them. UCSB has the fifth toughest schedule in the nation when looking at its cumulative opposition, currently with a .630 winning percentage (340-200). Down the stretch, the Gauchos have the third toughest schedule in the nation, facing the No. 1, No. 7 and No. 12 ranked teams in its remaining conference play. 

Freshman Phenoms
Three freshmen, Haotian Xia, Ryan Wilcox, and Brandon Hicks have proven themselves early on and made immediate impacts for an already deep and talented UCSB team. Both Wilcox (three times) and Brandon Hicks have won Big West Freshman of the Week honors while Xia has been nominated several times and had a career-high of 18 kills at No. 14 Ball State on Jan. 18. Hicks leads the team with 69 total blocks while Wilcox is second on the team with 167 kills.  

Big West Preseason Coaches Poll
The Gauchos were picked to finish fourth in the Big West Conference, according to the annual preseason coaches poll. With 36 points, including all six first-place votes, reigning Big West and NCAA champion Long Beach State was a unanimous choice for the No. 1 slot in the poll. Hawai'i came in second with 28 while UC Irvine was a close third at 26. UCSB came in at No. 4 with 16 votes followed by CSUN with 11 and UC San Diego with nine.