Last season, the UCSB women’s volleyball team finished second place in the Big West with a 19-12 record. After losing three seniors to graduation, the Gauchos will introduce a potential starting lineup of three freshmen and welcome the University of Hawaii to the Big West conference.

“It’s definitely going to be a harder conference now,” junior middle blocker Katey Thompson said. “I have a feeling it will up the level of play and hopefully we will rise to that challenge.”

No. 8 Hawaii has been picked as the favorite to win the conference by Big West coaches, followed by Long Beach and Northridge. Santa Barbara was ranked No. 4.

“I think it’s fair, they put us in the top four,” Gregory said. “We lost three [players], two of them All-Americans, and a very good middle so we have to replace them.”

After losing Stacey Schmidt, Chelsey Lowe and Lily Lopez, UCSB looks to its new recruits to be impact players in their first season as Gauchos.

“Some freshmen will be some impact players,” Gregory said. “We’re looking to be competing to win the Big West.”

Set to start are freshmen middle blocker Britton Taylor, opposite Jaylen Villanueva, and libero Taylor Formico.

Leading this year’s squad will be returning junior outside hitters Kara Sherrard and Leah Sully. “Leah Sully is a returning all conference player, the best passer and defender,” Gregory said. “With Kara Sherrard, they are the two all around players that are really going to have no weakness in their game.”

Despite a lineup featuring three young players, UCSB believes great chemistry makes it as formidable as ever.

“This year we have more of an all around team rather than certain go to players,” Thompson said. “That’s definitely going to be one of the best things, that we’re just so well rounded and have full depth.”

UCSB begins its season on Friday, Aug. 24 in the Loyola Marymount Tournament.