Gauchos Head to Las Vegas for NIVC First Round vs. Fresno State

Lindsey Ruddins (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
Lindsey Ruddins (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
• The Schedule
Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. PT
UC Santa Barbara (17-11, 9-7) vs. Fresno State (21-10, 13-5)
at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev.
All-time record vs. Bulldogs: 24-5
Record in Lantagne Welch era: 1-0
Streak vs. FSU: Won 1
Last meeting: W, 3-1 (9/6/14 @ Sacramento St.)
Live Stats 
| Video
With a win vs. FSU, the Gauchos would play...
Friday, November 30, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. PT
UCSB (17-11, 9-7) vs. UC Irvine (16-12, 10-6) or UNLV (19-11, 10-8)
at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev.
All-time record vs. Anteaters: 72-17
Record in Lantagne Welch era: 5-7
Streak vs. UCI: Lost 3
Last meeting: L, 3-1 (11/8/18 @ UCI)

All-time record vs. Rebels: 7-3
Record in Lantagne Welch era: 0-1
Streak vs. UNLV: Lost 1
Last meeting: L, 3-0 (8/26/16 @ UNLV)
• Closing Strong
UC Santa Barbara ended its regular season on a high note, winning nine of its last 10 sets for three straight wins. As a result, Lindsey Ruddins earned her fifth Big West Player of the Week of the season, with averages of 6.17 kills, 4.17 digs and a .357 hitting percentage in sweeps over Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside.
• NIVC First Round Preview
After closing out conference play with their second three-match win streak of the year, the Gauchos (17-11, 9-7) strengthened their case for postseason play, learning Sunday that they were selected to compete in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. This Thursday, UCSB will head to UNLV's Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev. to face Mountain West school Fresno State (21-10, 13-5) in the NIVC First Round. The Gauchos have played the Bulldogs just once in the last six years, defeating them in four sets on Sep. 6, 2014. Fresno State – which trails UCSB 24-5 in the all-time series – is making its first postseason appearance in 16 years, having received an automatic bid to the NIVC by finishing in second place in the MW. A program record four Bulldogs earned All-Conference honors this year, led by senior Taylor Slover and her team-high 3.94 kills per set average.
• Return to the Postseason
The Gauchos will see their first postseason action since 2013, when they went to the NCAA Tournament after finishing in a three-way tie for the Big West crown in head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch's first year with the team. This will be the program's 28th postseason appearance overall since 1981, and its first in the NIVC, which was revived last year following a six-year run from 1989-95. UCSB has a 21-27 postseason record all-time.
• Look Out Below!
One year after leading the nation in kill average, Ruddins has topped herself in her junior season, setting career-highs in kills (575), attempts (1,564), aces (41), digs (297), blocks (59) and points (650). The 575 kills on 1,564 attempts were the fourth and fifth-most in UCSB history. It was also the program's highest kill total during the rally scoring era (since 2001). Ruddins' 5.37 kills per set ranked second in the nation this year and are second all-time at UCSB, trailing only herself. Appearing in every match this year for the first time in her career, the Laguna Niguel, Calif. native is the only player in the conference to have at least 10 kills in every match she played in, something she had never done before. She enters the NIVC with 16 20-kill efforts and a pair of incredible 30-kill performances. Ruddins earned her third consecutive All-Big West First Team selection and also broke her own program record with five Big West Player of the Week awards this year, one more than she had in 2017. Now with nine in her career, she is tied for No. 3 in Big West history.
• UCSB's All-Time Digs Leader
A two-time All-Big West Honorable Mention, libero Emilia Petrachi cracked the All-Big West First Team for the first time following a stellar senior season. The Modena, Italy native enters the postseason with career-highs in both digs (537) and digs per set (5.02), leading the conference in dig average for the third straight season. Petrachi's 537 digs are also good for No. 8 all-time at UCSB, and the most during the Lantagne Welch era. For the fourth straight season, she has failed to miss a single match, with her current streak at 112 straight appearances. In 15 matches – more than half the season – she has recorded 20 or more digs, giving her 45 such outings in her career. She tied a career-high with 30 digs against McNeese State on Oct. 1. In the 3-0 win over CSUN on Oct. 2, she surpassed Leah Sully for the program's all-time digs record, eventually settling at 1,959 following the final week of the regular season, a mark which stands at No. 4 in Big West history. Petrachi was also named the Big West's Defensive Player of the Week three times this season, giving her a conference record eight in her career.
• Fantastic Freshmen
After being named the team's starting setter ahead of her first career match, Olivia Lovenberg did not disappoint, leading the conference in assists from week one all the way through the final match of the regular season. The former Canyon Crest Academy star finished with Big West-leading marks of 1,197 assists and 11.19 per set, becoming the first Gaucho to lead the Big West in total assists and the second to lead it in assist average since at least 2004. She is also just the second Gaucho to reach the 1,000-assist milestone during the Lantagne Welch era. One of three Gauchos to appear in all 107 sets during the regular season, Lovenberg earned three Big West Freshman of the Week honors and was named to the All-Big West Freshman Team. She burst onto the scene with back-to-back Big West Freshman of the Week honors to open the season, as she posted three 50-assist double-doubles through her first six outings. She also recorded three of the top-four assist performances in the conference this year, reaching 60 on two occasions and setting a conference-wide-high with 62 (12.4 A/S) against UC Davis on Sept. 29.
Joining Lovenberg on the All-Freshman Team was outside hitter Gigi Ruddins, who turned into one of the Gauchos' most reliable weapons down the stretch of the season. The younger Ruddins sister had at least nine kills in each of her first three Big West matches, while each of her last four double-digit kill efforts coincided with UCSB's last four wins. Her 2.33 kill average ranks second on the team and No. 17 in the conference and is top-5 amongst Big West freshman. In matches where Gigi reached double-figures in the kill department, UCSB was a perfect 6-0.
• With A Win...
If the Gauchos advance past the First Round, they will be back in action the following night in a 7:00 p.m. matchup with either UC Irvine or regional host UNLV. Despite owning a commanding 72-17 edge in the all-time series, UCSB was swept in its season-series with the Anteaters, falling 3-1 on both occasions. The Gauchos are 7-3 all-time versus UNLV, but fell in straight sets in their only meeting with the Rebels during the Lantagne Welch era in 2016.
• UCSB First Big West Team to Sweep UH in Hawaii
With perhaps their most memorable upset since the last time they won at UH back in 2013, the Gauchos became the first Big West team to sweep the Rainbow Wahine at Stan Sheriff Center since they joined the conference in 2012, handing them just their second conference loss of 2018 on Oct. 27. For the second straight meeting this season, UCSB held Hawaii to a season-low in hitting percentage (.118).
• Defense, Defense, Defense!
UCSB's defense shined during Big West play, as four Gauchos ranked in the top-20 in digs, leading to a conference-best 17.98 digs per set. As a team, Santa Barbara had zero 80-dig performances through its first 15 contests of 2018, but it hit that mark three times during conference play. UCSB's 102 digs against UC Davis on Sept. 29 were the most of the Lantagne Welch era and just two shy of reaching the program's all-time top-10.
• On The Money
After having just two Gauchos averaging at least 1.70 K/S last year, UCSB has upped it to five players in 2018. Backing up Lindsey Ruddins' offensive dominance are Gigi Ruddins (2.33 K/S),  Rowan Ennis (2.10), Torre Glasker (2.01), and Charlie Robinson (1.81). As a result, the Gauchos finished third in the conference in both kill average (13.58 K/S) and hitting percentage (.230). Over 28 matches last year, excluding Ruddins, there were 17 double-digit kill efforts. This year, there have been 31 through 28 contests.
• Serve's Up
Santa Barbara's serving has been one of its most prolific weapons this year, as it led the Big West with 1.64 aces per set overall. Lindsey Ruddins (41, T-2nd), Torre Glasker (32, 5th), and Lexi Rottman (28, 6th) all finished in the top-6. In the Gauchos' win over Montana on Sept. 14, Rottman finished with the most aces per set (2.33 SA/S) in the Big West this season. It was both the second-highest aces per set average and the second-most total aces for a single match in UCSB's rally scoring history.