UCSB to Open NCAA Tournament at No. 9 San Diego

UCSB to Open NCAA Tournament at No. 9 San Diego

The Schedule
Friday, December 6, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at No. 9 San Diego (24-3)
at Jenny Craig Pavilion
All-time record vs. Toreros: 14-8
Last meeting: L, 3-0 (Sep. 14, 2013)
Radio: KCSB 91.9 FM
Online Audio: KCSB.org
Live Stats: UCSBgauchos.com  

Big West Champs!
Last weekend, UCSB clinched a share of the Big West title for the first time since 2005. The Gauchos (13-3) tied with Hawai'i and Cal State Northridge to give the conference its first ever tri-champions. Santa Barbara owned the tie breaker among the teams and earned the Big West's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

On the Air
KCSB-FM will be broadcasting this Friday's match both locally on 91.9 FM and online at kcsb.org. Leonard Pinckney and Danield Moebus-Bowles will be on the call at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

Coach of the Year
In just her first season at the helm, Nicole Lantagne Welch was named the Big West's Co-Coach of the Year after leading the Gauchos on a surprising run to the Big West title. She has now been honored as Coach of the Year in two consecutive years, as she earned the accolade from the ACC when she was in Miami. She is the first Gaucho coach to earn the award since Kathy Gregory won it in 2009.

Spin-dt Doctor
Ali Spindt was voted the Big West's Freshman of the Year after leading the Gauchos with 309 kills. The outside hitter was also second on the team with 320 digs. She picked up 13 double doubles in her freshman campaign, which is easily the most on the team. Though she has been a starter in all of UCSB's 28 matches, she really hit her stride during conference play. Against Big West opponents, Spindt not only set her single-match career highs in kills (18) and digs (26), but she also increased her hitting percentage from .185 to .274.   

Hardware Collection
Five Gauchos earned All-Big West status after finishing first in the conference. UCSB had four first teamers in Ali Barbeau, Ali Spindt, Leah Sully, and Katey Thompson, while Phoebe Grunt was named an Honorable Mention. The five players are the most UCSB has had selected to the all-conference team since 2005, which was also the last time the Gauchos won the Big West.

Rising Stars
Three underclassmen were recognized in the All-Big West team, but Barbeau, Spindt, and Grunt weren't the only the young Gauchos who have made an impact on the 2013 season. Since the start of the conference schedule, Santa Barbara has had five underclassmen start every match. Spindt and Barbeau are first and third, respectively, on the Gauchos kills list. Spindt is the team's top attacker, while Barbeau has led UCSB in kills in six different matches.   
Domination at the Net
With their two starting freshmen middle blockers, UCSB has two of the top three blockers in the conference. Phoebe Grunt leads the Big West by averaging 1.26 blocks per set, while Allie Sullberg is third with her 1.16 average. The Gauchos have the only duo of middles in the conference that both average more than one block pet set. The freshmen have both also topped 100 kills this year as Sullberg has 128, while Grunt carries 106 going into the postseason.

Gauchos in the NCAA Tournament
The Gauchos have a storied history as participants in the postseason. Since the NCAA sponsored the tournament in 1981, UCSB has qualified for 28 all-time, including the first 26. It is just one of seven programs in the country that has made as many trips to the dance. The Gauchos have made it as far as the Elite Eight round three times. Though UCSB has played New Mexico State, Arizona, and San Diego earlier this season, it has never played these programs in previous postseasons.  

We Meet Again...
UCSB will be playing San Diego for the second time this season on Friday. The Toreros won in their first meeting 3-0 as hosts in their preseason tournament. In the Gauchos' NCAA Tournament history, they have played in 21 rematches with teams they faced earlier in the season. UCSB is 7-14 in those matchups, but is 5-1 since 1997. If the Gauchos are to move on to the Second Round, they will play the winner of the New Mexico St/Arizona match. It would be just the third time in program history that UCSB had two rematches in the postseason. Most recently, the Gauchos won both their rematches against Santa Clara and Fresno State in 1998. The last time UCSB played a team that previously beat them in the regular was in 2000 when it fell to Hawai'i 3-0 in their postseason rematch.

Taking on the Torreros
San Diego enters the tournament as the ninth seeded squad in its 17th appearance in the dance, and fourth consecutive. USD has advanced as far as the Sweet Sixteen in their 2004 and 2006 campaigns. The Toreros have averaged the nation's second-highest kills per set average with 15.05. At middle hitter, Chloe Ferrari leads her team in kills with her efficient attacking. She has recorded 299 kills while swingining at a .435 clip, which ranks ninth in the NCAA. Running the high powered offense has been setter Rachel Alvey who picks up 5.20 asssits per set.

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.