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UCSB Hosts Georgetown in Home-Opening Series

Deni Wilson (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Deni Wilson (Photo by Jeff Liang)

Schedule
Friday, September 16
vs Georgetown – 6 PM
SB High School Volleyball Night
ESPN+

Saturday, September 17
vs Georgetown – 7 PM
UCSBGauchos.com

Both matches will be played at The Thunderdome in Santa Barbara, CA.

Gauchos on the Air
Both matches in The Thunderdome will be aired live with Friday's home opener coming on ESPN+ and Saturday's rematch airing on UCSBGauchos.com. Gaucho great Max Kelton and volleyball world champion Katie Spieler will be on the call for both matches. Links can be found above and on the schedule page. Live stats will also be available for both matches.

Last Time Out
The Gauchos are coming off of a split weekend out in Las Cruces, NM with the New Mexico State Aggies. UCSB came in Friday night and played spoiler in the Aggies' home opener downing the host team in four sets as Michelle Ohwobete picked up her third double-double of the season with 12 kills and 10 digs. Tallulah Froley added 12 kills of her own on a potent .258 clip.

The Saturday night rematch saw New Mexico State get its revenge with a four-set win of its own. The sole set won by the Gauchos was a landslide in their favor as they outhit the Aggies .559 to .261 in the third set to stay alive. Ohwobete again went for double digits with 11 kills and added nine digs as well while Briana McKnight mirrored of that stat line sending down nine kills and scooping 11 digs.

Scouting the Hoyas
Georgetown comes into the weekend's Big West vs Big East battle with a similar record to the Gauchos at 2-7. The Hoyas opened up the season on a seven-match losing streak before picking up a pair of wins at home this past weekend in their own Dig the District Invitational that saw them top Binghamton in five sets and sweep George Washington. They are led offensively by Mary Grace Goyena who just picked up a Big East Player of the Week award and is currently averaging an impressive 3.58 kills per set average. She has 118 total kills on the year which is 61 more kills than her closest teammate in Ruth Kayongo and it accounts for 33% of the teams 357 kills.

Ohwobete Bringing the Heat
The reigning Big West Freshman of the Year, Michelle Ohwobete, has picked up right where she left off last season once again proving to be an effective all-around player at the outside hitter position. She currently paces the program with a 2.42 kills per set average and is second behind only starting libero Macall Peed with a 2.42 digs per set average. She is also tasked with a bulk of the team's passing duties and does so brilliantly as she only has three receiving errors this season on 142 attempts for a .979 percentage. If that weren't enough, Ohwobete also leads the team with 12 total aces and a 0.46 per set average.

Peed Plays D
2021 First Team All-Conference selection Macall Peed is once again getting it done on the defensive end for the Gauchos leading the team with a 3.24 digs per set average. She has notched double-digit digs on four occasions already including a season-high 22 against a now top-25 team in No. 24 Pepperdine. In situations that call for it, she has also been a reliable setter tallying 1.31 assists per set.

Dishing It Up
Early on this season the Gauchos have filled their setter needs by committee as Megan Shimoda, Grace McIntosh, and Mehana Ma'a have shared the duties so far. After missing the first weekend of competition, Ma'a came on strong at the Pepperdine Asics Tournament putting together a 5.33 assist per set mark which now paces the team. Shimoda, who has played the most sets (29) and has the most total assists (130) ranks second with a 4.48 average and McIntosh is just behind her at 3.88.

Gauchos Tabbed to Place Second in Preseason Coaches' Poll
The Big West Conference announced its 2022 Preseason Women's Volleyball Coaches' Poll tabbing UC Santa Barbara to finish second this season in the conference race. The Preseason Coaches' Team was also announced with senior middle blocker Deni Wilson representing the Gauchos.

UCSB earned 94 total points in the poll and five first-place votes, and was only edged out by reigning champion Hawai'i, which garnered 96 points and six first-place votes. This is the highest finish for the Gauchos since the poll began in 2015 and the most first-place votes they have earned. The team was selected third in each of the last two seasons.

Last season the Gauchos finished second in the Big West with a 17-3 conference record and handed both losses to the 18-2 Rainbow Wahine. One was a sweep a home and the other a five-set thriller on the island to close out the season.

Making her first ever preseason team was Wilson, who comes into the season as one of the leaders of the team and is looking to follow up a 2021 campaign that saw her named First Team All-Conference and AVCA All-Region. During that year she topped the Big West with 26 solo blocks and ranked 22nd in the nation with a .391 hitting percentage. 

UCSB Earns Eighth Straight USMC/AVCA Team Academic Award
The United State Marine Corps (USMC) and the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) announced its yearly USMC/AVCA Team Academic Awards, naming the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team to its ranks for the eighth consecutive year.  A total of 1,213 programs were honored across all levels of the sport from high school to Division I.

UCSB is one of just 38 DI programs to have made the list the last eight years in a row and are the sole Big West team to make the list eight times.

The award honors volleyball programs that maintain a year-long grade-point average (GPA) of 3.30 on a 4.0 scale, or 4.10 on a 5.0 scale. The Gauchos posted a 3.525 this past Spring Quarter. 

Blue-Green Rivalry Coming to ESPNU
The Big West Conference has announced that the Blue-Green Rivalry will be brought to television this fall. ESPNU is set to broadcast the matchup between UCSB and Cal Poly slated for Friday, September 30 in The Thunderdome.

The two central coast rivals have split their regular season meetings in each of the last two seasons including a unique series in 2021 that saw both road teams pick up the win. The Gauchos swept the Mustangs in their own Mott Athletics Center in San Luis Obispo last October, a feat that had not been achieved by any team since 2016.

By season's end UCSB sat one spot ahead of Cal Poly in second place in the conference race with a 21-11 overall record and 17-3 Big West mark. The Mustangs finished in third with records of 15-16, 13-7.