Gauchos Host Stanford in Historic Season Opener

Gauchos Host Stanford in Historic Season Opener

UCSB will host national powerhouse Stanford in the Thunderdome on Aug. 30 to open the 2013 season. Friday's match will also mark the beginning of the Nicole Lantagne Welch era.

Don't miss a historical season opener for the Gauchos. Season tickets are now available by calling 805 893-UCSB (8272) or by going online. Family Plans of five season tickets- two adults and three GKids- can also be purchased for $100. Adult tickets will receive the commemorative UCSB Volleyball long sleeved shirt with purchase and GKids will receive the 2013 GKids t-shirt.

Each season ticket holder will have access to the Founders Room for light pregame refreshments.

• The Schedule
Friday, August 30, 2013 at 12 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (0-0,0-0) vs. No. 3 Stanford (0-0, 0-0)
All-time record vs. Cardinal: 8-9
Last meeting: L 3-0 (Sept. 12, 2008)

Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 12 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Nevada (0-0, 0-0)
at Haas Pavilion
All-time record vs. Wolf Pack: 15-0
Last meeting: W, 3-0 (Oct. 22, 1999)

Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. New Mexico State (0-0, 0-0)
at Haas Pavilion
All-time record vs. Aggies: 18-2
Last meeting: L, 3-1 (Sept. 13, 2008)

• New Regime
In February, Nicole Lantagne Welch joined UCSB as the prorgam's second women's volleyball coach in the rally-scoring era. She is taking over after Kathy Gregory held the clipboard for 38 years. Lantagne Welch may be new to UCSB, but she is by no means a rookie coach. She built a top-tier program from the ground up at the University of Miami, leading the Hurricanes to five NCAA Tournaments in 12 seasons, including four straight to end her tenure. A three-time AVCA Regional Coach of the Year, Lantagne Welch also sports a 243-120 record entering her inaugural season with the Gauchos.

• Top Notch Freshmen
The 2013 recruiting class was ranked No. 30 in the country by in June. Some of the notable Gaucho freshmen include Phoebe Grunt, who came in as UCSB's tallest player at 6-4. Ali Spindt- who was named an All-American after her junior season- will be competing for time as an outside hitter. Rounding out the rest of the Class of 2017 are Ella Roberts, Helen Gannon, Allie Sullberg, and Kristen Berlo.

• Sensational Seniors
A promising group of underclassmen will be led this season by a core group of proven seniors. All-Big West first teamer Leah Sully set the program records in kill attempts last year (1,798) and paced the team with 558 kills. Katey Thompson will take the court again at opposite where, last year, she tallied 311 kills and 123 blocks, both second-most on the team. Kara Sherrard will also be back for her final season. In addition to scoring 268.0 total points, Sherrard also showed her defensive skills when she posted a career-high 26 digs on Oct. 19 against Cal State Fullerton.

• A Wealth Of Experience
Along with the seniors and freshmen, the Gauchos welcome back contributers from the sophomore and junior classes. At middle blocker, sophomore Britton Taylor was third on the team with 100 total blocks last season. Sophomore Jaylen Villanueva will be contributing her talents as an opposite hitter for UCSB this season. Despite not seeing significant playing time early in the season, Villanueva finished strong and recorded 89.0 total points, second among underclassmen. Overall, UCSB will see 10 of its letterwinners from last season return for 2013.

• Facing the Cardinal
The Aug. 30 season opener will bring together two of the NCAA's pioneer programs in women's volleyball. The AVCA recently ranked Stanford third in its annual preseason poll. The Cardinal has been ranked among the top 10 in the this poll every year since 1996. Stanford returns 11 letterwinners from last year, including All-American middle blockers Carly Wopat and Inky Ajanaku.

• Wrangling the Wolf Pack
After the season opener, the Gauchos hit the road for their next 11 matches as they play in tournaments throughout the West Coast. Their first stop is Berkeley, Calif. where they will play both Nevada and New Mexico St. on Saturday. The Wolf Pack is led by junior middle blocker Tessa Lea'ea. A threat on both sides of the ball, she achieved All-Mountain West accolades after leading her team both with 336 kills and 141 total blocks in 2012. She has also led the team in kill percentage for the past two seasons, posting .316 in 2011 followed by her .263 mark last season.

• Analyzing the Aggies
New Mexico State enter the season as the defending WAC Champions led by junior outside hitter Meredith Hays and middle blocker Desiree Scott, who were both First Team All-WAC last year. Hays - a 2012 All-West Region honorable mention - was named MVP of last year's WAC Tournament after leading the fourth seeded Aggies to the conference crown. Her 486 kills and 35 service aces were both team highs in 2012. Scott, returning for her senior season, led the league with her .420 hitting percentage and was the team leader in total blocks with 152.

• Two-Year Thunderdome Celebration Continues
In 2013-14, UC Santa Barbara will continue its two-year 35th anniversary celebration of the Thunderdome.  In the Fall of 1979, the doors officially opened for UCSB's Events Center and a new era in Gaucho Athletics was born. Nicknamed the Thunderdome, the Events Center has been home for UCSB's prolific women's volleyball program since its opening. Under the bright lights of the 'Dome, the Gauchos established themselves as a perennial NCAA contender, qualifying for the national tournament 27 times including 26 straight.

• History Lesson
UCSB women's volleyball is historically one of the most successful teams in the NCAA. The Gauchos are just one of only four teams to qualify for the first 26 NCAA Tournaments. Overall, UCSB reached 27 NCAA Tournaments, which includes multiple Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen berths. Before the NCAA recognized women's volleyball, UCSB was one of the top teams in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), reaching its national tournament Final Four three times including two third place finishes.