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UCSB Women’s Volleyball Picked to Finish Fifth in Preseason Poll

Defending Big West champion Cal Poly is the unanimous pick for the 2008 title.

The UCSB women’s volleyball team garnered a fifth-place selection in the annual Big West Conference preseason coaches poll released Tuesday. Defending conference champion Cal Poly was the unanimous pick to claim the 2008 title after receiving all nine first-place votes.

UCSB garnered 49 points in the poll. Long Beach State was picked second with 68 points, and UC Irvine was picked third with 60 points. Pacific took fifth with 55 points, and Cal State Fullerton’s 36 points trailed the Gauchos. Cal State Northridge was picked seventh (27), while UC Riverside (18) and UC Davis (11) rounded out the nine-team field.

The Gauchos finished the 2007 season with a 14-18 overall record and a 6-10 mark in the Big West (seventh place). It marked the first time that UCSB finished a season with a sub-.500 record in the 33-year program history and also the first time the Gauchos failed to make the NCAA Tournament field since the tournament’s inception in 1981.

The 2008 Gauchos will return six starters from the 2007 squad, including senior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin, a 2007 First Team All-Big West selection, sophomore setter Dana Vargas, a 2007 All-Big West Freshman Team honoree, and senior libero Leigh Stephenson, the UCSB and Big West single-season record holder for digs.

Cal Poly enters the 2008 season as the two-time defending Big West Champions after capturing its second straight title with an impressive 15-1 conference mark in 2007. Including AVCA All-America honorees Kylie Atherstone and Jaclyn Houston, Cal Poly returns five starters from last season’s Mustang squad that posted a 23-8 record and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Long Beach State was selected to finish second with 68 points. The 49ers will have to fill the void left by Alexis Crimes, a four-time All-American, though they do return three starters from last year’s squad that posted a 27-6 overall mark and finished second in the Big West with a 14-2 mark. Long Beach will also welcome the 10th-best recruiting class in the country according to PrepVolleyball.com.

The Gauchos will hit the court Aug. 23 for an alumni match at the Thunderdome before beginning the regular season the following weekend at the Cal Molten Classic, where they will face St. John’s and host Cal.

Lisa Skvarla is UCSB‘s assistant media relations director.

2008 Big West preseason poll
() Denotes first place votes.

1. Cal Poly (9) 81

2. Long Beach State 68

3. UC Irvine 60

4. Pacific 55

5. UC Santa Barbara 49

6. Cal State Fullerton 36

7. Cal State Northridge 27

8. UC Riverside 18

9. UC Davis 11

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