Gauchos Wrap Up Non-League Play at Pitt Panther Challenge

Gauchos Wrap Up Non-League Play at Pitt Panther Challenge

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• The Schedule 
Friday, September 15, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. 
UC Santa Barbara at Pitt (4-4)
at the Fitzgerald Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Stream: ACC Network (WatchESPN)
All-time record vs. Panthers: 5-1
Streak vs. Pitt: Lost 1
Last meeting: L, 3-1 (9/4/16)

Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. 
UC Santa Barbara vs. Cleveland State (5-3)
at the Fitzgerald Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Stream: none
All-time record vs. Vikings: 1-0
Streak vs. CSU: Won 1
Last meeting: W, 3-1 (10/11/90)

Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Eastern Kentucky (2-8)
at the Fitzgerald Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Stream: none
All-time record vs. Colonels: 1-0
Streak vs. EKU: Won 1
Last meeting: W, 3-0 (10/29/83)

• The Week Ahead
This week, the Gauchos close out non-conference play for the season with three matches at the Pitt Panther Challenge in Pittsburgh, Pa. Besides UCSB and the host Panthers, the field is rounded out by the Cleveland State Vikings and the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. The Gauchos open up the tourney against Pitt on Friday at 4 PM before finishing up with a CSU-EKU doubleheader on Saturday. 

• Gauchos on the Air
UCSB's first match of the tournament, against host Pitt, will be streamed live on the ACC Network, accessible to Gaucho fans through WatchESPN. A link to the broadcast will be available on gameday through UCSBGauchos.com. UCSB's neutral matches at Pitt will not be streamed. After this weekend, every minute of Gaucho action in Big West play, both home and away, will be streamed live by the conference. In addition, UCSB will make a pair of appearances on ESPN3 this season, on the road at Long Beach State (Sept. 30) and at UC Riverside (Nov. 18).

• The Week in Review
UCSB last week hosted the 2017 Thunderdome Classic, featuring Yale, No. 19 USC, and Arkansas. The field entered the tourney with a combined 13-3 record. The Gauchos suffered a single loss to each opponent, falling in four to Yale to open the tourney, starting five freshmen due to injuries in a three-set loss to USC, and then battling fiercely before ultimately succumbing in a five-set heartbreaker to Arkansas. Lindsey Ruddins (53 kills, 27 digs in two matches) was UCSB's representative on the All-Tournament Team. USC had the most successful run in the tourney, going 3-0, while Arkansas' Pilar Victoria was named Tournament MVP after averaging just under six kills per set. 

• Ruddins Is Killing It
A year after breaking out with an attention-grabbing redshirt freshman season, UCSB outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins is continuing her strong play in 2017. The Aliso Viejo, Calif. native ranks second in the nation and first in the Big West with a 5.36 kills per set average. Emphasizing her importance to the squad, she leads the entire nation with a 15.00 swings per set average. In the season-opening tournament at Baylor, Ruddins recorded 36 kills in a match against No. 15 Florida State, setting a new rally-era program record and finishing just two behind Roberta Gehlke for the all-time single-match mark (38 vs. LBSU, 9/30/99) in Gaucho lore. The reigning Big West Freshman of the Year and AVCA All-American averaged 5.88 kills per set in the Thunderdome Classic and had 13 kills in the third set alone against Yale. 

• Lantagne Welch on the Verge of Milestone
Entering the weekend, UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch needs just two victories to reach 300 in her esteemed career. In her 17th season overall as a head coach (12 years at Miami), she is the winningest active coach in the Big West. 55 of Lantagne Welch's 298 career victories have come as the bench boss for UCSB, a position she took over before the 2013 season.

• Petrachi Hits the Ground Running
A model of consistency, junior libero Emilia Petrachi is enjoying a productive start to the 2017 season. The Modena, Italy native leads the Big West with a 4.82 digs per set average, up from her career average of 4.6. With 52 digs in the Utah State Tournament earlier this season, she was the Gaucho representative on the All-Tourney Team and was nominated for Big West Defensive Player of the Week honors. Petrachi has averaged four digs per set or better in eight of UCSB's nine matches this season, and she finished just shy (3.25 vs. Pacific) in the one match she failed to reach that mark. She is coming off a season-high 26 dig performance against Arkansas, her third 20+ dig outing of the year and 21st of her career. 

• Better Things Coming?
Despite an 0-3 record last weekend, UCSB played some of its best volleyball of the season. After hitting over .200 as a team just once over the first six matches, the Gauchos did so twice in the Thunderdome Classic, against Yale and Arkansas. UCSB had by far its best set of the season in the first against Arkansas, hitting a blistering .480 and dominating the Razorbacks at the service line (three aces to none) and at the net (four blocks to none). 

• Middles Breaking Out
A pair of UCSB freshman middle blockers, Kjia Rivers and Nicole Omwanghe, had breakout performances in the Thunderdome Classic. Rivers totaled 17 kills in the first two matches of the tourney, including a team-high nine against USC, to garner a Big West Freshman of the Week nomination. Splitting time in the middle and as a pin, Rivers has found consistency in her blocking game, recording exactly four blocks in each of the last four matches. Omwanghe meanwhile was one of the Gauchos' top contributors against Arkansas, recording season-highs in both kills (six) and blocks (eight).