Men's Volleyball Hosted by Congressman Huffman Back East
No. 15 Men's Volleyball took full advantage of their trip to the east coast last week by capitalizing on the opportunity to visit our nation's capital.
The team played a hard-fought match, ultimately falling to Penn State 3-1. But the trip was not for naught; Congressman Jared Huffman, a representative of California's 2nd district, served as the team's VIP tour guide through all the history and excitement of Washington, D.C.
An alumnus of the Men's Volleyball program himself, Jared Huffman was happy to host the Gauchos and help them make the most of what little time they had back east. He and fellow Congressman Salud Carbajal (a representative of California's 24th district, which includes Santa Barbara) hosted a breakfast for the Gauchos and fueled them up for a full day of touring and sightseeing. Senior setter and captain Grady Zant described how Congressman Huffman took them beyond the normal tour stops: “We got to see Congress in action, up from the gallery, which was a pretty crazy sight.” He noted that this was the most memorable part of the trip, adding that it was a “surreal experience” to be able to watch Congress vote and see democracy unfold in a way that most only learn about in history classes but never get to see in person.
Beyond the excitement of having the privilege to be granted access to sights that the general public doesn't normally get to see, the team felt proud to be hosted by such a prestigious and accomplished alum. Commenting on Huffman's status as a role model for current and future players, Zant remarked, “[Senator Huffman] shows that the leadership qualities you have on the volleyball court can definitely be translated to different professions,” indicating that having an alum who works tirelessly in Washington, D.C. for the benefit of the citizens he represents back in California is an incredible yet attainable goal that our Gaucho athletes can use as inspiration to take their talents beyond the court.
The Gregg and Carol Wilson Swimming Enhancement Fund
Legendary swimming coach Gregg Wilson (entering his 40th year at UC Santa Barbara) announced his retirement from head coaching in October 2015. Wilson embarked on his Gaucho journey in 1975-76 when he assumed the reins of the men's program. In 1985, after spending one year at his alma mater Cal, he took control of the women's program as well. What followed was a period of unprecedented success for both programs.
He coached his UCSB men's team to the Big West Conference title in 1979, beginning a run of 23 consecutive championships for the Gauchos, all but one coming with him at the helm of the program. In 1985, Wilson coached the women's team to the first of 13 championships over a 25-year stretch, giving him 36 total Big West titles. In his illustrious career, he was named Big West Coach of the Year 27 times and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year twice. On the national level, Wilson guided 72 swimmers to All-American status, while on the international stage he coached three Olympians with Team USA, including gold medalists Richard Schroeder and Jason Lezak.
Much more difficult to measure than the All-Americans, conference titles and coach of the year honors are the scores of athletes that were influenced by Wilson during his four decades in coaching.
Established in 2015 by the UCSB Athletics Department, the Gregg and Carol Wilson Swimming Enhancement Fund affirms the strong tradition of excellence that the Wilson's have provided to the swim programs. This fund, used at the discretion of the Swimming Head Coach and the Athletic Director, supports the men's and women's teams in its primary mission of developing student athletes who are committed to academic excellence in the classroom, sportsmanship and success in the pool, and service to the community.
The fund assists the teams by helping to:
- Provide supplimential support to the operational budgets.
- Sustain the presence of an NCAA Division I Swimming Program at UCSB.
- Recruit the most promising student-athletes through scholarships.
To contribute to this fund:
- Pay online: visit gauchofund.com and select "Donate Now" at the top of the page and select The Gregg and Carol Wilson Swimming Enhancement Fund.
- Respond by mail: make your check payable to the UC Regents, specifying the Gregg and Carol Wilson Swimming Enhancement Fund and return to:
- The Gaucho Fund
- ICA Building
- Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5200
- Pay by phone: call the Gaucho Fund Office at 805-893-5372.
For more information on this giving opportunity, contact:
Associate Director of Development
From "Why Not Us?"
to "Omaha or Bust"
— UCSB Baseball talks 2017 after its Cinderella season.
To the vast majority, Omaha is just another town in a flyover state. Hearing its name doesn't conjure up any particular reactions beyond a slight hesitation as we think about if we could even locate Nebraska on a map of the U.S. But for college baseball players, coaches, and fans, Omaha is the Emerald City. Above the players' lockers at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium there hangs a sign that reads "There are no free trips to Omaha" – a lesson that rang loud and clear to the team last year as they chipped away at every obstacle last season in order to earn that golden ticket to the College World Series.
While it's easy to recall the later moments in the season, the playoff games leading up to Omaha that secured the Gauchos their first-ever spot in the College World Series, Assistant Coach Eddie Cornejo (this year's Top Recruiting Coordinator in the Big West) remembers the earlier trials as well. He hearkens back to the first game of last season against Hartford, when the team secured a 1-0 win. Cornejo comments, "the players learned a lot about themselves. We didn't play very good baseball – we ended up coming out with a win but we didn't play very well and I think they kind of woke themselves up [after that]."
With such an awe-inspiring season overall, it's hard to imagine the team experiencing such humble beginnings, but it's that willingness to face the facts and fix things when they aren't up to standard that makes this team solid. Josh Adams, a redshirt junior and outfielder, addresses this sentiment when asked about his goals for the team this year in light of its stellar performance last year: "[We want to] repeat what we did last year. I guess that's really the only goal. If we do anything less than what we did last year, it's going to be a disappointment for us." Such expectations might seem lofty to someone who doesn't know Gaucho baseball, but to those who have witnessed the momentum built up over the past few years, Josh's candor is right on the mark.
Last year alone the recruiting class was ranked within the top 10 in the nation, the team saw one of its best records in team history with 43-20-1, and the team made its first ever appearance in the College World series, making it all the way to semifinals before being eliminated by U of A. Impressive, right? But what if I were to tell you that 2016 wasn't even the pinnacle of this team's success? It seems as though the Gauchos climb higher and higher every day in the 2017 preseason polls: multiple nationally ranked players in their respective positions, a handful of players noted within the Top 100 Draft Prospects list by Baseball America, and various polls that put the UCSB Baseball program anywhere from 18th to 25th in the nation.
But while the accolades are flattering, the Gauchos aren't willing to let them inflate their egos. As Cornejo puts it, it's easy to "get caught up in what different websites publish about rankings [and] how good we're supposed to be, so if we focus on the day to day and playing good baseball, I think the rest takes care of itself." Sophomore pitcher and 2016 Preseason Big West Freshman of the Year, Noah Davis, wholeheartedly agrees. "[We have to] play the season like last year didn't happen," Davis remarks, "because it's a new season and anything can happen."
Looking forward to the start of this new season, it's important that the Gauchos, as Davis remarks, recognize their fate isn't guaranteed: after all, there were close calls last season that led them to Omaha, like Sam Cohen's walk-off grand slam in Louisville at Super Regionals, the very hit that clinched their spot to the College World Series. But the team remains undaunted: they recognize their goals and understand that as long as they take it day by day and remain focused, they might have another glimpse of the promised land. And if they utilize what they learned this past season and build upon it, they should have a pretty decent shot. Besides the College World Series, the Gauchos saw many other significant victories, not just in number of wins but in the programs they were able to defeat. Beginning the season with a first-place finish in the Tony Gwynn Tournament in San Diego, the team also went on to win their series against solid teams like UCI and USC, as well as Long Beach on the Dirtbags' own field, something the Gauchos hadn't yet done in the Checketts era.
Those wins only seem to be more attainable this season. The Gauchos face a competitive non-conference schedule with opponents like Kentucky, BYU, and Tulane, as well as some familiar foes in Big West play. As Cornejo puts it, "the Big West as a whole is a lot more competitive this year in comparison to last year, and we've got our work cut out for us there." Luckily for the Gauchos, the lineup is shaping up to be particularly resolute; in addition some key returners like Austin Bush and Clay Fisher, they've brought in a strong freshman class, all eager to prove themselves on the field and earn their place within the team. Cornejo seems pleased with his recruits, observing, "I think [fans] will get to see a lot of the freshmen get some playing time this year. Many of them performed very well in the fall and in the winter, and they've earned their way."
With a promising freshman class earning their spots in this season's lineup, it's up to the team veterans to impart their wisdom and balance that with the team's young talent. Part of that is passing along the Gaucho Baseball "culture" that this team has created. According to Davis, this culture is "the way we play: super aggressive [and] a lot of fun," and he even asserts that the Gauchos "have the most fun of any team in D1 baseball, doing what we do and just attacking the game relentlessly." Beyond that, the team's culture extends to the support players show for one another, united in the goal that winning as a team supersedes any other personal desires. Adams elaborates on this idea, explaining, "We're not so much worried about whether this guy or that guy plays, but whatever we can do to help the team win as a team is what we're really focused on. We just want to win and be the best that we can be."
And of course, they've already proved that the best that they can be is simply THE best, or at least among the best. It's not just anyone who can proudly claim they've punched that golden ticket to Omaha. And it's even fewer who can say they've been there and returned – but that's exactly the kind of relentless nature this team represents. Recalling what he deems a "once-in-a-lifetime experience," Davis observes, "everybody's hungry to get back there. We didn't even know what we were missing before, and now we've been there and we want to go back more than anything…I would do anything to go back and have that experience again." Similarly, Adams describes his experience as "breathtaking," recalling all the people "lining the streets and on buildings and in bars, cheering for us more than I think they cheered for any other team just because we were the ‘Cinderella team.'"
Beyond the pure excitement of going where no Gaucho has gone before, for Cornejo, the experience represents the coaching staff practicing what they preach: "We'd been telling all of our recruits since the very beginning that this place is going to be good…it was extremely satisfying for me personally to see that happen, it wasn't just lip service." With this additional credibility catalyzing the momentum the Gauchos already have going into the 2017 season, the fact of the matter becomes quite evident: this is no longer a "Cinderella team." The progress they've built upon, the evidence that unfolds in their stats, and the sheer determination to put in the work and not just ride last season's high make them the alphas, not the underdogs. There might not be free trips to Omaha, but nevertheless the Gauchos sure are willing to pay the price.
New Baseball Stadium Enhancements
$1,000,000 – $10,000,000
UCSB has one of the top Baseball programs in the nation. In 2015 UCSB hosted a NCAA Regional Tournament as the #16 seed overall. However, due to our current home facility the program was forced to host the Regional in Lake Elsinore. Proposed upgrades include lights for night games, field upgrades, scoreboard, permanent restrooms, concessions and entry plaza. This will allow UCSB to host first class events and enrich the experience of our student-athletes and the Santa Barbara community.