The Gauchos men’s volleyball team (1-2) will play against Princeton (0-2) at the UCSB Robertson Gymnasium on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Later this week, UCSB will play number 4 ranked Pepperdine at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu at 7 p.m. Friday.
After a year in which the Gauchos ranked in the top-10 national rankings for kills, assists, counts and batting rates, the team is back on the field with a new lineup that will go without four of the five AVCA All-Americans. 2021 will set.
Outside hitter Ryan Wilcox was the only non-senior to earn All-American status last year, and the only Gaucho this year to be named to the 2022 Off the Block Preseason All-American Team. The Big West Championship MVP returns for his junior campaign after leading the Big West with 35 aces and placing top-10 in kills (2.81), digs (2.14), points (3.5) and aces per set (0.47). He was a fixture in the opening week UCSB bout against USC, leading the team in total tries (76) and finishing second with 30 kills (3.33 K/S).
This year’s 26-man roster consists of six freshmen and seven other returnees who saw playing time last year. Sophomore center blocker Donovan Todorov excelled in the last 15 games of his freshman season, as he finished near the top of the conference charts in blocks (1.17) and strike rate (0.456). Also included among the returnees are 2019 All-Freshman center blocker Brandon Hicks, and sophomores who made 27 appearances together last year in libero Ryan Pecsok and outside hitter Dayne Chalmers.
After spending most of 2021 with a top-3 national ranking, the Gauchos started the year this year with a number 11 ranking for the season as they try to re-establish themselves as a team to watch in the nation.
For the second year in a row, head coach Rick McLaughlin took home both the Big West and AVCA National Coach of the Year awards. McLaughlin earned his fourth career conference coach of the year honors in a year when the Gauchos won 15-5 with 13 of their wins against nationally ranked teams. They spent almost the entire year as the third best team in the country and were in the top four every week.
Gaucho’s head coach led his team to the first-ever Big West Championship, earning the program its first conference tournament title and trip to the NCAA tournament in 10 years. The Gauchos went into their first NCAA tournament since 2011, and ranked in the top-10 in the country in several statistical categories, ranking fourth in kills per set (13.10), assists per set (12.33) and counts. per set (10.37). They also ranked eighth or better in hit percentage (0.318), win-lose percentage (.789) and team offense per set (28.99).
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.