No. 3 Gauchos Host Showdown with No. 1 Long Beach State on Friday

Keenan Sanders (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Keenan Sanders (Photo by Tony Mastres)

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The Schedule
Thursday, Mar. 14, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. in Long Beach, Calif.
Friday, Mar. 15, 2019 at 7:00 PM in Santa Barbara, Calif.
No. 3 UC Santa Barbara (15-3) vs. No. 1 Long Beach State (17-0)
All-time Record / Streak vs. the 49ers: 50-49 / Lost 6
LBSU Streak / Last 10 – Won 17 / 10-0
UCSB Streak / Last 10 – Won 12 / 10-0
2018 Series: LBSU def. UCSB, 3-0 on Mar. 15, 2018
LBSU def. UCSB, 3-1 on Mar. 16, 2018

The Week Ahead
In a much-anticipated Big West showdown, the No. 3 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team will play a pair of matches against No. 1 Long Beach State. The Gauchos, riding a 12-match win streak, will travel to Long Beach this Thursday, Mar. 14 at 7:00 p.m. for a match in the Walter Pyramid. The 49ers, who have won all 17 of their matches this season, will turn right around and travel to Santa Barbara's Rob Gym on Friday, Mar. 15 at 7:00 p.m. for the rematch. Both matches will be available to stream through BigWest.TV with live stats available on UCSBGauchos.com. 

Gauchos Tame Lindenwood Lions Last Friday
UCSB won its 12th straight match last Friday in a 3-1 (25-16, 25-14, 20-25, 25-20) victory over Lindenwood in Rob Gym in the final non-conference match of the season. The Gauchos outhit Lindenwood .248 (45-18-109) to .068 (34-27-103) and cruised to big wins in the opening two sets. The Gauchos came out of the gate hitting .448 with 16 kills in the first set to put the Lions away 25-16 followed by a big 25-14 set win. Ryan Wilcox paced the offense for the second straight match with a match-high 11 kills. Fredrick added 10 kills and 10 digs for the double-double and Corey Chavers finished with nine kills, five digs and three total blocks.

Poll Position
For the third consecutive week, the Gauchos have moved up a spot in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Poll, coming in at No. 3, its highest ranking of the season and highest ranking since UCSB also reached No. 3 back in 2015. The highest ranking the Gauchos have reached in the rally-scoring era was No. 2 in the final poll of the 2011 season, after finishing as the National Runner-Ups. The top three programs, and four of the top five, all reside in the Big West Conference. No. 1 Long Beach State and No. 2 Hawai'i remain unchanged, while UC Irvine slipped to No. 5 after falling to BYU. UCLA moved up to No. 4, meanwhile CSUN is still No. 12, giving the Big West five programs in the Top-12. 

Battle with the Beach
The No. 3 Gauchos clash with No. 1 Long Beach State this week, with both teams riding significant winning streaks. The 49ers have won 17 straight and have only dropped one set on the year, against USC. In the all-time series between these two programs, the Gauchos hold a slight 50-49 edge, but have lost the last six meetings, including both matches last season; a 3-0 sweep at LBSU, and a 3-1 defeat in Rob Gym. The 49ers are led by the dynamic duo of TJ DeFalco (173 kills, 3.33 k/s) and Kyle Ensing (173 kills, 3.39 k/s) while recent AVCA Player of the Week, Josh Tuaniga (523 assists, 10.67 a/s), handles the setting duties. Defensively, libero Jordan Molina leads the team with 93 digs (1.90 d/s) and Nick Amado leads the team with 42 total blocks (0.91 b/s). 

I'll Have a Double-Double Please
Spencer Fredrick recorded a 10-kill, 10-dig double-double in the Gauchos' 3-1 win over Lindenwood on Friday. The junior opposite has been playing strong as of late, and hit .368 (10-3-19) in the match with two total blocks and an ace. It was the fifth double-double of the season for UCSB as setter tandem Randy DeWeese and Casey McGarry have two apiece. Fredrick is the first Gaucho to have a double-double with double-digit kills this season. 

Inside the Streak
No. 3 UCSB has now won 12 straight matches, setting a program record for the rally-scoring era (since 2001). It is also the longest win streak in the UCSB record books (since 1980), surpassing 11-match win streaks from the 1987 and 1981 seasons. Seven of the 12 wins have come at the expense of AVCA Top-15 opponents. 

Chavers Leading the Charge
Senior outside hitter Corey Chavers is having a phenomenal season by all accounts, already a three-time Big West Player of the Week, AVCA National Player of the Week and Off the Block's National Outside Attacker of the Week, twice. Chavers had 10 consecutive matches with double-digit kills up until last Friday's match against UCSD. For the season, he leads the team by far with 245 kills (3.66 k/s) and 33 service aces. Not a one-trick pony, Chavers is also among the team leaders in digs (71) and total blocks (35). 

Battle Tested
Overall this season, Santa Barbara has played 12 AVCA Top-15 ranked opponents, going 9-3 against them. UCSB has the fourth toughest schedule in the nation when looking at its cumulative opposition, currently with a .645 winning percentage (291-160). Down the stretch, the Gauchos have the second toughest schedule in the nation, facing the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 ranked teams in its remaining conference play. 

Freshman Phenoms
Three freshmen, Haotian Xia, Ryan Wilcox, and Brandon Hicks have proven themselves early on and made immediate impacts for an already deep and talented UCSB team. Both Wilcox (three times) and Brandon Hicks have won Big West Freshman of the Week honors while Xia has been nominated several times and had a career-high of 18 kills at No. 14 Ball State on Jan. 18. Hicks leads the team with 58 total blocks while Wilcox is second on the team with 143 kills.  

Big West Preseason Coaches Poll
The Gauchos were picked to finish fourth in the Big West Conference, according to the annual preseason coaches poll. With 36 points, including all six first-place votes, reigning Big West and NCAA champion Long Beach State was a unanimous choice for the No. 1 slot in the poll. Hawai'i came in second with 28 while UC Irvine was a close third at 26. UCSB came in at No. 4 with 16 votes followed by CSUN with 11 and UC San Diego with nine.