Four matches in the Thunderdome and a rematch against USC highlights the 2012 UC Santa Barbara regular season schedule that the team released Monday.
The Gauchos last season became the second-lowest seed in MPSF history to win the conference tournament and lost to Ohio State in the NCAA championship match. UC Santa Barbara coach Rick McLaughlin has one starter returning from last season — middle attacker Dylan Davis, who played for the United States at the Men’s Junior World Championship in August.
Check out the five things to know about the Gauchos’ schedule for the upcoming season.
Five things to know about the schedule
1. The rematch with the Trojans
One of the most anticipated rematches from last season takes place early in the 2012 season. UC Santa Barbara will play a road match against USC on Feb. 1 — the first meeting between the two teams since the Gauchos upset the then-No. 1 Trojans in the MPSF championship and NCAA semifinals. The victories capped off one of the greatest underdog runs in college men’s volleyball postseason history as the No. 7 seed UC Santa Barbara upset a top-five ranked team in four consecutive matches to reach the NCAA championship. In addition, USC entered these matches last season after becoming the first team since 1995 to be ranked No. 1 throughout the entire regular season. Despite this being a rematch between the schools, it is not a rematch between many of the players who played in those 2011 postseason matches. The Gauchos have one starter returning, while the Trojans have two returning starters.
2. Balanced MPSF schedule
UC Santa Barbara will play at least one MPSF match per week from late-January to the end of the regular season — with the lone exception being its bye week in March. This is a significant change from the Gauchos conference schedule last season. The Gauchos played 16 of their 22 MPSF matches in the season’s first two months. It also had a 27-day layoff between conference matches in March. Following that layoff UC Santa Barbara went 2-4 in its remaining MPSF matches and dropped to seventh place in the conference standings.
3. No MIVA and EIVA teams
For the first time in four years, Gauchos will not play any non-conference matches against the MIVA or EIVA. UC Santa Barbara since 2009 was 5-1 versus the MIVA and EIVA in regular season play, including victories against Ohio State in 2010 and Lewis last season. Two limitations for the Gauchos playing MIVA and EIVA teams is their 22-match conference season and the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. This puts UC Santa Barbara at 25 matches — three fewer than the NCAA maximum. Besides the UC Santa Barbara Invitational, UC Santa Barbara’s only other non-conference match will be against Cal Baptist on Jan. 11.
4. The UC Santa Barbara Invitational
UC Santa Barbara will continue its tradition of playing host to an early season non-conference tournament. The UC Santa Barbara Invitational will be played the opening week of the regular season on Jan. 6-7 and will consist of West Coast team each playing three matches in a two-day span. The Gauchos are 7-8 in the last five years at their home tournament. The team won its first two tournament matches last season to reach the championship for the first time since 2001, but lost to BYU in the championship match. The tournament field for the 2012 UC Santa Barbara Invitational has not been releases. However, UCLA, UC Irvine and Long Beach State have already announced they will play in the tournament.
5. Gauchos get Thunderstruck
The Gauchos will play four of their 12 conference home matches at the historic Thunderdome Arena — a significant increase from previous seasons. UC Santa Barbara will play more matches in the Thunderdome than it has the last five season, with matches against UCLA, Long Beach State, UC San Diego and USC. The Thunderdome is the largest arena on UC Santa Barbara’s campus and received its name because of the loud decibel level in the arena during Gauchos men’s basketball games. The UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team traditionally plays its home matches in the smaller Robertson Gymnasium, but in recent years has moved some of its bigger matches to the Thunderdome. UC Santa Barbara is 2-4 at the Thunderdome in the last five seasons, including going 2-1 last season with victories against Stanford and BYU.
UC Santa Barbara regular season schedule
7 p.m. Jan. 4 vs. Manitoba (Exhibition)
Jan. 6-7 at UC Santa Barbara Invitational
7 p.m. Jan. 11 vs. Cal Baptist
7 p.m. Jan. 20 vs. Pacific*
7 p.m. Jan. 21 vs. Stanford*
7 p.m. Jan. 27 at UCLA*
7 p.m. Feb. 1 at USC*
7 p.m. Feb. 4 at Pepperdine*
7 p.m. Feb. 10 vs. UCLA*
7 p.m. Feb. 15 vs. Cal State Northridge*
7 p.m. Feb. 17 at Long Beach State*
7 p.m. Feb. 24 at BYU*
7 p.m. Feb. 25 at BYU*
7 p.m. Feb. 29 at Cal State Northridge*
7 p.m. March 2 vs. Long Beach State*
7 p.m. March 7 vs. UC Irvine*
7 p.m. March 9 vs. UC San Diego*
7 p.m. March 14 vs. Pepperdine*
7 p.m. March 16 vs. USC*
7 p.m. March 30 at UC Irvine*
7 p.m. March 31 at UC San Diego*
7 p.m. April 6 vs. Hawai’i*
7 p.m. April 7 vs. Hawai’i*
7 p.m. April 13 at Stanford*
7 p.m. April 14 at Pacific*
*Denotes MPSF match
All times PST