For the 25th year in a row, the UCSB women’s volleyball team will compete in the Big Dance with an eight game-winning streak under its belt this year.
The unseeded Gauchos (21-8 overall, 12-2 in the Big West) will compete against #12 USC (16-10 overall, 12-6 Pacific-10) in the first round at Los Angeles tomorrow night. Santa Barbara is only one of three Big West teams to appear in postseason play since the event’s conception in 1981.
“It’s a very tough draw, but we are happy to be one of two teams representing the Big West Conference in the NCAA Tournament,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory told ucsbgauchos.com. “After being sent out of state the past two years, we are elated that our fans and parents will have an opportunity to watch us play close to home.”
In last weekend’s Baden Thanksgiving Classic, held in Long Beach, UCSB swept Florida A&M on Friday 30-19, 30-24 and 30-27, and defeated South Dakota State on Saturday night 28-30, 30-26, 30-24 and 30-27.
The 2005 season marks the 26th time in the past 30 years in which the Gauchos have recorded 20 or more wins.
This year also is the first since 1989 that Santa Barbara has played a host team on its turf. Last year, the Gauchos swept Atlanta A&M in the first round, only to fall to Georgia Tech the following day in round two. Since 1997, UCSB has appeared in three Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s. In the past 24 years of competing in the Big Dance, Santa Barbara has posted a 21-24 record.
The Women of Troy have posted a 17-9 lifetime record against Santa Barbara, including the most recent match in November 2002, when USC swept the Gauchos in the Thunderdome.
“I think that we can’t be satisfied if we don’t go in there this weekend and play the best we can,” senior middle blocker Megan Blackshire said. “We definitely have a lot to work on in practice, but now we have a good idea of what to expect from [USC].”
The winner of the first round will advance to the second round Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m., against the winner of the Pepperdine-BYU match, set for 5 p.m. in the Lyon Center tomorrow night. Like Santa Barbara, BYU (25-3 overall) who won the Mountain West Conference, enters the tournament unseeded. The Cougars have won the last three showdowns against UCSB and boast a 6-4 all-time record against the Gauchos. Pepperdine (17-11 overall) also enters the match unseeded, but was swept by UCSB mid-October. The Gauchos hold a lifetime advantage 27-16 over the Waves.
The winner of the second round will then advance to NCAA Regional Semi Finals, which take place Dec. 9 in Stanford.
Friday night’s first serve is scheduled for 7 p.m., or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Pepperdine-BYU matchup.