The #24 UCSB women’s volleyball team is making a statement: Don’t count us out!
That is exactly what many coaches and fans all over the country were thinking after Santa Barbara stumbled out of the gate this season, losing six of its first eight matches.
The Gauchos have believed in themselves all along, and now people all over the country are jumping back on the bandwagon. UCSB (9-7 overall, 7-1 Big West) dismantled Cal State Northridge (9-9 overall, 3-6 Big West) in a make-up game Tuesday, 29-31, 30-17, 34-32, 30-17, and has now won four matches in a row.
The big story behind Tuesday’s match was the absence of junior outside hitter Courtney Guerra. Guerra, a second-year transfer from Cal, was injured on Monday after practice and was not able to make the road trip.
Due to her absence, UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory was forced to play a line-up she has not used much this season. Gregory moved starting junior setter Brooke Niles to outside hitter and senior setter Brooke Rundle off the bench and back into the starting role she assumed her first three years at UCSB.
Gregory has a luxury no other coach in volleyball has: bringing an All-American off of the bench. If Rundle was nervous being back in the starting line-up, she didn’t show it one bit as she sparkled all night long. Rundle tallied a double-double with 63 assists and 15 digs.
Even though the setter was different for UCSB, the hitting targets were the same except for the absence of Guerra. Junior middle blocker Danielle Bauer chipped in a match-high 23 kills and 11 digs. Senior middle blocker and last week’s Daily Nexus Athlete of the Week Brieanna Lampe put in another strong match with 19 kills and a glistening .486 hitting percentage.
Gaucho fans would have a tough time talking about this year’s team MVP without tossing Niles’ name in the hat. Niles, who played opposite her freshman year and outside hitter last year, has been the starting setter for the majority of this season and has also played outside hitter when needed. Tuesday the junior helped her team to victory with 10 kills.
Friday night the Gauchos will be back in action in the Thunderdome against UC Irvine. Saturday night UCSB will host #1 Long Beach State, and if Santa Barbara can pull off an upset, then the Gauchos will need to get a bigger bandwagon for everyone to jump on.