WVB: Gauchos tabbed 3rd in Big West poll

With a pair of returning All-Big West outside hitters and the nation’s No. 18 recruiting class in hand, the UCSB women’s volleyball team was voted third in the 2015 Big West Women’s Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll, the conference announced Wednesday.

The Gauchos picked up 56 points, while Hawai’i and Long Beach State took the top two spots with 80 and 68 points, respectively.

Nicole Lantagne Welch enters her third year as women's volleyball coach at UCSB.

Nicole Lantagne Welch enters her third year as women’s volleyball coach at UCSB.

Third-year coach Nicole Lantagne Welch will be returning six starters from a year ago. Ali Barbeau and Chanel Hoffman are among the top returners, as both earned all-conference accolades following the 2014 season. Barbeau finished as UCSB’s top attacker last year with 265 kills (2.7/set) and earned her second consecutive First Team All-Big West accolade. Hoffman made both the conference’s all-freshman and honorable mention teams after she paced the team with seven double-doubles and registering 2.34 kills per set.

In May, PrepVolleyball.com selected UCSB’s 2015 recruiting class as the 18th best in the country. It was the program’s highest ranking since the site started publishing its annual list in 2003. The Gauchos have now seen two of their past three recruiting classes garner a spot in the ranking, as their 2013 haul landed at No. 26.

UCSB’s talented roster will be put to the test this season as it will play eight teams that made last year’s NCAA Tournament. Along with a competitive home schedule that will feature the Rainbow Wahine and the 49ers, the Gauchos will also be hosting two tournaments that include volleyball powers UCLA and San Diego.

2015 Big West Women’s
Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Hawai’i (8) – 80
2. Long Beach State (1) – 68
3. UC Santa Barbara – 56
4. CSUN – 53
5. UC Davis – 50
6. UC Irvine – 39
7. Cal Poly – 32
8. UC Riverside – 15
9. Cal State Fullerton – 12

() Denotes first place votes