Harvard to open 2019 season on road against UC Santa Barbara

Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot and Harvard athletics

[Editor’s note: Off the Block in collaboration with the EIVA is presenting The Top 15 EIVA Non-Conference Matches. This list spotlights the best non-conference matches scheduled for EIVA teams in 2019 and will be the first time several of these matches have been publicly announced. Harvard versus UC Santa Barbara is ranked No. 8 on the list.]

Harvard after concluding last season winning its first EIVA championship will open the 2019 season with a chance at another program first.

Coach Brian Basie informed Off the Block that Harvard will play its season-opener against UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 3 as part of the annual UC Santa Barbara Invitational.

UC Santa Barbara is undefeated in all four previous non-conference matches against Harvard, including their most recent meeting in 2017. In that match, the Gauchos rallied from a two-game deficit with overtime victories in both the fourth game and the decisive fifth game.

Despite starting the 2018 season at 1-8, the Crimson rebounded to make the four-team EIVA Tournament and then beat Penn State and Princeton to win the conference championship. It also in the NCAA Tournament opening round forced a fourth game against the NCAA Tournament finalists UCLA.

All-EIVA setter Matthew Ctvrtlik highlights the starters returning for the Crimson. Ctvrtlik running the team’s 6-2 offense last season had more than 100 kills and guided the Crimson to the third-best attack percentage in the EIVA at .253.

UC Santa Barbara finished last season at No. 12 in the national coaches poll and lost in the opening round the inaugural Big West Tournament.

Opposite Keenan Sanders and outside attacker Corey Chavers are among the Gauchos’ four All-Big West returning starters. Both Sanders and Chavers were in the Big West’s top 10 last season averaging more than 3.40 kills per game.

The UC Santa Barbara Invitational is an annual non-conference tournament that takes place during the season’s opening weekend.

Along with playing the host school, Harvard will play CSUN on Jan. 4 and then conclude the tournament against the defending NCAA champions Long Beach State on Jan. 5.

Harvard is 1-12 all-time against those teams with its only win coming against CSUN in 2012.