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UCSB Opens Big West Play at UCSD and UCI

Macall Peed and Briana McKnight (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Macall Peed and Briana McKnight (Photo by Jeff Liang)

Schedule
Friday, September 23
at UC San Diego – 7 PM
Liontree Arena – Lo Jolla, Calif.
ESPN+

Saturday, September 24
at UC Irvine – 5 PM
Bren Events Center – Irvine, Calif.
ESPN+

Gauchos on the Air
Both matches will be aired live on ESPN+ and links can be found above and on the schedule page. Live stats will also be available for both matches.

Last Time Out
UCSB is coming off of back-to-back sweeps in its home-opening weekend with Georgetown and will ride the two-match win streak into Big West play. The Gauchos topped the Hoyas in every major statistical category with the exception of blocks. 

On the weekend, Tallulah Froley was effective and efficient from the right side posting a 4.17 kills per set average with on a .367 clip and Michelle Ohowbete was her usual self averaging 3.83 kills per set, 3.00 digs per set, and posting a perfect 1.000 reception percentage. Despite working out of a 6-2 offense, Mehana Ma'a was still able to average an impressive 7.33 assists per set average and Macall Peed led the way with 5.17 digs per set.

Scouting the Competition
UC San Diego comes into the weekend with a 7-5 overall record having gone 2-1 this past weekend at Air Force's Thin Air Challenge. The Tritons topped the host Cadets in four sets, outlasted San Francisco in a five-set thriller, and took their only loss to Denver in a sweep. Earlier this year they picked up wins against Army and Cal to kick off the season. 

UC Irvine boasts a 7-3 record having won those seven matches in its last eight games before falling to Cal Baptist last Saturday in five sets. In that seven-match win streak the Anteaters earned every win by way of the sweep and topped the likes of Grand Canyon, Gonzaga, and Weber State. They will host CSUN Friday night before facing the Gauchos Saturday evening.

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 2.72 kills per set average and is second behind only starting libero Macall Peed with a 2.53 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 188 attempts for a .984 percentage. If that weren't enough, Ohwobete is also second on the team with 16 total aces and a 0.44 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 3.47 digs per set average. She has notched double-digit digs on six 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 1.25 assists per set.

Dishing It Up
Early on this season the Gauchos have filled their setter needs by committee in their 6-2 offense 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 5.86 assist per set mark which now paces the team. Shimoda, who has played the most sets (35) and has the most total assists (155) ranks second with a 4.43 average and McIntosh is just behind her at 3.44.

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.