Gauchos Kick Off UCSB Invitational with Season Opener on Thursday

Spencer Fredrick (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Spencer Fredrick (Photo by Tony Mastres)

UCSB Invitational Tournament Central

The Schedule 
Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 at 3:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Concordia-Irvine
at Rob Gym in Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-time record vs. the Eagles: 5-1
Last Meeting: Jan. 5, 2019 (UCSB def. CUI, 3-0)
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Video: BigWest.TV

Friday, Jan. 10, 2020 at 5:30 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Benedictine Mesa
at Rob Gym in Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-time record vs. the Redhawks: First Meeting
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Video: BigWest.TV

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. McKendree
at Rob Gym in Santa Barbara, Calif.
All-time record vs. the Bearcats: 1-0
Last Meeting: Jan. 6, 2017 (UCSB def. MU, 3-1)
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Video: BigWest.TV

2020 Vision
Following an 18-10 campaign in 2019 that saw the Gauchos ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation, UCSB brings back the bulk of its lineup and is poised for a successful 2020 season. Despite graduating All-Americans Corey Chavers and Hayden Boehle, Santa Barbara returns six pivotal rotation players from a year ago, headlined by AVCA Newcomer of the Year and Big West Freshman of the Year, Ryan Wilcox. Wilcox and middle blocker Brandon Hicks were both named to the conference's All-Freshman Team last season. UCSB also returns its dynamic setting duo of Randy DeWeese and Casey McGarry, along with key offensive pieces in Keenan Sanders and Spencer Fredrick

The Week Ahead
No. 5 UCSB will open the new season once again by hosting its annual UCSB Invitational from Jan. 9-11 in Rob Gym. The tournament field will consist of Big West opponents Long Beach State and CSUN along with Concordia-Irvine, Benedictine Mesa, and McKendree University. None of the Big West schools will compete against each other, however, taking turns against the other teams over the course of three days. First serve for the Gauchos is set for Thursday, Jan. 9 at 3:00 p.m. against Concordia-Irvine with their Friday, Jan. 10 match to be played at 5:30 p.m. against Benedictine Mesa. The Gauchos will conclude tournament action in the final match of the invitational on Saturday, Jan. 11 at 8:00 p.m. against McKendree. For a complete tournament schedule, head to the UCSB Invitational Tournament Central.

All three of UCSB's matches this weekend will be available to stream on BigWest.TV. Live stats for all nine tournament matches will also be available through StatBroadcast.

Big West Coaches Poll
The Gauchos were picked to finish second in the Big West in 2020 as the annual preseason coaches poll was announced in December. American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Preseason No. 1 Hawai'i received all six first-place votes and 36 total votes to claim the top spot in the Big West poll, while UCSB received 28 votes. Back-to-back defending national champion Long Beach State was picked to finish third with 23 votes after losing a handful of key players, while UC Irvine was projected to finish fourth with 19 votes. CSUN (13 votes) and UC San Diego (seven votes) round out the six teams in the poll.

AVCA Preseason Poll
Following a strong 2019 campaign, Santa Barbara will begin the season ranked No. 5, as the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Preseason Poll was announced in December. Big West rival Hawai'i will start the year No. 1 while Long Beach State is No. 4. No. 8 UC Irvine and No. 13 CSUN make up the conference schools in the Top-15.

New Faces on the Sidelines
With the departures of associate head coaches Cullen Irons and Vince Devany in the offseason, the Gaucho coaching staff will feature a pair of new, yet familiar faces on the sidelines. Alongside head coach Rick McLaughlin, who returns for his 12th season at the helm, Gaucho alums Jonah Seif '16 and Blaine Nielsen '12 come on board as assistant coaches. Seif, a four-year starting setter for the Gauchos from 2012-16, is one of the most decorated UCSB men's volleyball players in program history. The Thousand Oaks, Calif. native was a three-time AVCA All-American and MPSF First Team selection and ranks fourth all-time in Gaucho lore with 4,332 career assists. Following a standout career at UCSB, Seif played professionally in Poland and Italy, and also spent time with Team USA. Nielsen, meanwhile, spent five seasons in the Gauchos volleyball program from 2008 to 2012 as an outside hitter. A Corona del Mar, Calif. native, Nielsen was a member of the 2011 team that advanced to the National Championship against Ohio State. Following his collegiate career, Nielsen played professionally in Luxembourg before teaching private lessons and playing beach volleyball. He also spent time working at a nutrition and health company in Northern California.

Get Your Tickets!
An All-Session pass for the UCSB Invitational will cost $28 for adults and $18 for seniors, youth and military. Tickets for each individual day cost $14 for adults and $9 for seniors, youth and military. In addition to UCSB Invitational tickets, individual match tickets are available for purchase and can be found here, or by calling the online ticket office at 805-893-UCSB.