No. 3 UCSB Opens NCAA Championship with No. 5 Pepperdine

Photo by Jay Metzgar
Photo by Jay Metzgar

The Schedule
No. 5 Pepperdine (13-6)
Tuesday, May 4 at 2:00 PM at Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio

No. 1 Hawai'i (15-1)*
Thursday, May 5 at 2:00 PM at Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio

NCAA Championship*
Saturday, April 24 at 5:00 PM at Covelli Center in Columbus, Ohio

(* - If the Gauchos win the previous round)

Gauchos on the Air
UCSB's quarterfinal matchup with Pepperdine will be aired live on Big Ten Network, with the semifinal round being streamed on NCAA.com. The Championship will be broadcasted on ESNPU with a stream available on Watch ESPN as well. Live stats will be available on UCSBGauchos.com.

The Tournament
The Big West Champions have secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will be making their first run at a title in 10 years. The Gauchos will face Pepperdine, one of two at-large bids in the tourney, in the first round. The Waves currently hold a 13-6 record after falling 3-0 in the MPSF Championship to No. 2 BYU. The winner will go on to face the tournament's top seed, No. 1 Hawai'i.

On the other side of the bracket, Belmont Abbey faces Penn State in the opening round with the winner taking on Lewis. Awaiting the winner of that match is No. 2 BYU.

Current AVCA Rankings
1          Hawaii (10)
2          BYU (5)
3          UC Santa Barbara
4          Lewis
5          Pepperdine
6          UCLA
T-7      Long Beach State
T-7      Penn State
9          Grand Canyon
10        Loyola-Chicago
11        UC San Diego
12        George Mason
13        McKendree    
14        NJIT
15        Ball State

( ) – First place votes

McLaughlin Earns Second Straight Big West Coach of the Year Award
For the second straight year head coach Rick McLaughlin of No. 3 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball has been named the Big West Coach of the Year.

McLaughlin, who was also named AVCA National Coach of the Year in 2020, has now earned four conference coach of the year honors in his career.

The Gaucho head coach led his team to its first ever Big West Championship just a few nights ago giving the program its first conference championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament in 10 years. Second-seeded UCSB knocked off Long Beach State 3-1 in the semifinals before besting UC San Diego in the championship 3-1 to earn the automatic bid. The Gauchos will ride a 10-match win streak into the tourney.

McLaughlin has led UCSB to a 15-4 overall record standing as the nation's third-ranked team for almost the entirety of the season. In conference play the Gauchos finished second with a 7-3 record.

The Gauchos rank top-ten in the country in several statistical categories including being fourth in kills per set (13.10), assists per set (12.33), and digs per set (10.37). They rank eighth or better in hitting percentage (.318), win-loss percentage (.789), and team attack per set (28.99).

Five Gauchos Named Big West All-Conference
A program record four Gauchos in the senior quartet of Randy DeWeese, Casey McGarry, Keenan Sanders, and Roy McFarland were named First Team All-Conference this past week after another incredible season. It was the second straight first-team honor for DeWeese, McGarry, and Sanders, and the first for McFarland who was an honorable mention last year.

Rounding out the awards was Ryan Wilcox who was named a Big West All-Conference Honorable Mention.

DeWeese Demolishing
Senior outside hitter Randy DeWeese finished out the regular season ranking second the Big West with 240 total kills and a 4.07 p/set average. His 4.89 points p/set average also ranks second.

He is one of just two players in the conference that has posted three 20+ kill matches this season and average over 4.00 kills per set for the regular season.

On a Platter
Senior setter Casey McGarry once again made his presence felt throughout the conference as one of the best setters in the nation on both sides of the ball. He finished off the regular season as the nation's top assist-man averaging a career-high 10.87 assists per game and notching 728 total on the season. He has been consistent all year posting 30+ assists in every match. Defensively, he finished fourth in the conference with a 2.19 digs per set average.

Sanders Swings
Senior middle blocker Keenan Sanders is one of the most potent attackers in the country as he currently ranks fifth in the nation with a .460 hitting percentage. That mark is good for second in the Big West Conference.

Bringing the Broom
UCSB has collected eight sweeps already this year against three different opponents.

DeWeese Named Off the Block National Opposite of the Week
Senior Opposite Randy DeWeese earned his second national nod from Off the Block this season after a strong showing against CSUN, the publication announced on March 29.

DeWeese posted a match-high 18 kills on a potent 18-1-26 line for a hitting percentage of .654 in the match one sweep. He followed that up the next night with his third 20-kill match of the season on a 20-4-34 line for a .471 mark. He added 11 digs and six blocks over the two matches as well as the Gauchos won six straight set against the Matadors.

Wilcox Named Big West Defensive Player of the Week
After a great series against No. 10 Long Beach State, Ryan Wilcox was given his first career Big West Defensive Player of the Week award. The sophomore outside hitter led the Gauchos in digs over its two matches with the Beach.

Wilcox was receiving serves and keeping plays alive all weekend, scooping up 32 total digs over the two matches for a 4.0 digs per set average. He set a career-high in the team's four-set win over the Beach with 18 digs to go along with a pair of block assists, and followed that up with 14 more the next night.

He also contributed offensively with 10 kills on .368 hitting in the first match with another eight kills to finish the weekend.

Wilcox becomes the second Gaucho to earn the honor this year after seeing Keenan Sanders take it opening weekend, and is the third different Gaucho to receive a weekly award this season.

DeWeese Named Sports Imports/AVCA DI-II Player of the Week
After being named Big West Player of the Week for third time in his career after week one of the season, Randy DeWeese of No. 3 UCSB followed by being named Sports Import/AVCA Division I-II Men's Player of the Week for the first time, the association announced Tuesday.

DeWeese becomes the first Gaucho since Corey Chavers in January of 2019 to earn the award, with this being the 12th time that the program has received it.

DeWeese and Sanders Collect Big West and Off the Block Honors
After going a perfect 4-0 in week one of the new season, then No. 4 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball followed by winning a pair of weekly honors. Randy DeWeese was named Big West Player of the Week for the third time in his career and Keenan Sanders was selected as the Defensive Player of the Week for the first time.

DeWeese was also named Opposite of the Week by Off the Block, and Sanders was named Middle Attacker of the Week.

DeWeese had a dominant start to the new season picking up 59 total kills for a team-best 4.21 kills per set average. He swung an efficient .361 hitting percentage to go along with six aces, nine blocks, and 26 digs.

The senior opposite erupted for 19 kills in the season opener with UCSD and set an early season-high Sunday morning against UCI with 21 kills on .576 hitting to go along with a pair of aces and blocks, and seven digs. He showed up in big moments and constantly gave the Gauchos the momentum they needed to close out sets.

Sanders led the team with 13 total blocks and was incredibly efficient posting a .644 hitting percentage and three errorless matches. He was a cheat code in the season opener with a line of 16-0-20 (.800) and five total blocks. He followed that up the very next night going 12-0-17 with an ace and three more blocks.

AVCA Preseason Poll
The UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team was ranked third in the American Volleyball Coaches Association' preseason poll for the 2021 season.

The Gauchos had the second-highest ranking among Big West Conference teams, which occupy five of the spots in the top seven. UCSB is one rank below Hawai'i but above Long Beach State (4th), UC Irvine (6th), and UC San Diego (T-7th).

Prior to the cancellation of the 2020 men's volleyball season in March, UCSB was off to a 14-2 start, claiming wins at Stanford, UCLA, Ohio State, and USC, with its only losses coming against second-ranked BYU in Provo, Utah. At the time of the cancellation, the Gauchos were on an eight-game winning streak.

Four Gauchos in senior opposite hitter Randy DeWeese, senior setter Casey McGarry, senior middle blocker Keenan Sanders, and senior outside hitter Roy McFarland earned selection to both the All-Big West teams and to the AVCA All-America lists at the conclusion of last season. Head coach Rick McLaughlin was selected as the Big West Coach of the Year and the AVCA National Coach of the Year.

Big West Preseason Poll
For the second straight season the UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team has been picked to finish second in the Big West Conference preseason coaches poll.

Trio of Gauchos Named Preseason All-Americans
Prior to the start of the season, UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team landed three players on Off the Block's preseason All-America list.

Setter Casey McGarry was named a First Team All-American, while opposite Randy DeWeese and middle blocker Keenan Sanders earned spots on the Second Team. 

In 2020, McGarry became the first Big West player to lead the conference in both assists per set and digs per set. In just 16 matches the Manhattan Beach, Calif. native matched his season-high in total assists from 2019 (593) and set new personal marks in digs, blocks, points, and kills. He notched 30+ assists in all but one match despite 10 of the team's contests coming in three-set sweeps and found a season high 53 assists in a five-set loss to BYU. His career-high in digs came in the team's reverse sweep of No. 9 Penn State, in which he scooped up 20. 

DeWeese earned a nod to the Second Team following a season in which the senior transitioned from the setter position to playing opposite. His 3.70 kills per set mark ranked 16th in the country, landing 207 kills in total. In addition, he found new career-highs in every category but assists.

The Sacramento, Calif. native truly found his rhythm late in the non-conference slate. In the team's last five matches, DeWeese tallied 76 kills for an average of 4.47 kills per set, broke his career-high in kills twice, set a new career-high in digs, and earned back-to-back Big West Player of the Week Awards.

Sanders was one of the Gauchos' most efficient players in 2020. The middle blocker finished atop the Big West Conference and second in the country in hitting percentage posting a career-high .521 attack line with 113 kills. It took just 188 swings to accomplish that feat thanks to his career-low 15 errors, which was also best in the nation. He also had an excellent campaign defensively, ending the season with a 1.05 blocks per set mark.

The trio, who were also selected as All-Big West First Teamers and AVCA All-Americans following the 2020 season, were part of a class of 11 Big West players named preseason All-Americans.