Needing to replace three standout seniors, the UCSB women’s volleyball team has signed four new players for the fall 2012 season. The Gauchos are coming off a 19-12 season with an 11-5 second-place finish in the Big West and will look for consistent production from these recruits in order to compete for a Big West championship.
Seniors Chelsey Lowe, Lily Lopez and Stacy Schmidt, who was nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year, will leave the team with a much different look for next season. One addition is outside hitter Alex Barbeau from Salinas High. In Barbeau’s senior year, she led her team to an undefeated season and was named the team’s MVP as well as the Monterey County MVP.
“Barbeau is a 6-foot outside hitter who is very physical,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “One of the areas we need to improve is outside hitting; we need to score more points in that position. We need another outside hitter to score more kills.”
Also joining UCSB is setter/right side Jaylen Villanueva from Los Alamitos High. Villanueva was team MVP twice and a First Team All-Sunset League selection after her team captured the league title.
“She’s only 5-foot-8, but she has a high jump; she’s very springy,” Gregory said. “She’s left-handed and capable of playing opposite, where Stacey played, and will be one of the players who will compete for right side this year. She’s a very quick, multifaceted player with two responsibilities, as she can multitask as a setter, possibly.”
Another newcomer will be outside hitter Alex Flores, a two-time Mission Trail Athletic League MVP from Anzar High. Flores, at 5 feet 11 inches, played a large role in her club team earning a gold medal at the 16-and-under Junior Olympics.
“Flores is another really good jumper with a good arm,” Gregory said. “She also can play the right — she and Jaylen can play both right and left — and she’ll be another good jump server along with Katey Thompson.”
Finally, at 6 feet 3 inches, middle blocker Britton Taylor from Corona Del Mar High promises to make an immediate impact. Taylor was a First Team All-Orange County selection as a senior and was named the Pacific Coast League MVP.
“I can count on her the most to have a starting role,” Gregory said. “She’s really ready to adjust to speed of college game, so we’re looking for her to start. She also has one great strength, which is she can hit behind the setter, like Lily.”
Gregory knows that these recruits are just some of the pieces necessary to build a team that expects to be one of the top teams in the conference each year.
“Those are four that can help us offensively,” Gregory said. “There will also be some new setters and a libero. Having to replace three players, all First Team Big West, is hard because they had such a big impact. We’re gonna be a young team in terms of starting no seniors, and we’ll be looking to Erica Lau for leadership. I’m optimistic.”