St. Francis to open 2018 season at UCSB Invitational

St. Francis will once again return to the West Coast to start the season.

The Red Flash as part of releasing their 2018 schedule announced Friday that they will participate in the annual UC Santa Barbara Invitational during the opening weekend of the season.

The UC Santa Barbara Invitational is one of the longest running non-conference events in college men’s volleyball with teams playing three matches during the two-day tournament.

St. Francis at this invitational will play CSUN in its season-opener on Jan. 5. It also will play the reigning MPSF champions Long Beach State later that day before closing out the tournament against the host school UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 6.

The Red Flash ended last season receiving votes in the national coaches poll and advanced to the EIVA Tournament finals for the second consecutive year. Five starters return this upcoming season for St. Francis, including Freshman All-American outside attacker Michael Fisher and All-EIVA libero Gabe Woffindin.

This will be the third time in the last four years that St. Francis has opened its season wtih a West Coast road trip.

The Red Flash went winless during a four-match road trip in 2015 that included three losses at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. It also opened last season at the CBU Invitational and defeated Cal Baptist and Lindenwood at the non-conference tournament.

“This is our second season traveling out to California, and it is always nice playing against those highly competitive teams,” St. Francis coach Mike Rumbaugh said in a statement. “It helps us for EIVA conference play.”

Both Long Beach State and CSUN ended last season ranked in the national coaches poll.

Long Beach State in its final season in the MPSF before joining newly formed Big West men’s volleyball conference advanced to the 2017 NCAA Tournament semifinals. Among the three All-American starters returning for the 49ers includes outside attacker TJ DeFalco, who spent the offseason playing with the U.S. Men’s National Team.

CSUN will join Long Beach State as members of the six-team Big West men’s volleyball conference. All-conference opposite Arvis Greene highlights the starters returning after the Matadors finished last season in ninth place in the MPSF.