The #23 UCSB women’s volleyball team continued its struggles with ranked opponents Tuesday night as it fell in five games to #17 Pacific.
UCSB only has one win in nine tries against top 25 teams this year. Last season, Santa Barbara was 10-5 against ranked opponents.
More importantly, the Gauchos slipped out of second place in the conference with their 30-28, 26-30, 32-30, 22-30 and 12-15 marathon loss. University of the Pacific (19-6, 10-2) is now in sole possession of second place in the conference, and Santa Barbara (12-10, 10-3) drops into third place and must win most, if not all, of its remaining conference matchups in order to make the postseason.
Tuesday night’s match carried great significance for the Gauchos as they looked to continue their two-match winning streak by winning a second straight match against a ranked opponent.
Although volleyball is a team sport, UOP senior outside hitter Jamie Hamm did her best to make the match look like a one-woman show. Not only did Hamm amass 22 digs, a match-high 24 kills and two blocks, but she also broke the UOP all-time dig record in the third game of the match.
UCSB sophomore outside hitter Erica Menzel did her best to match Hamm step for step, but it just wasn’t enough. The San Marcos High standout tallied a season-high 17 kills and mind boggling 27 digs. Menzel also contributed three solo blocks to her already sparkling record.
Santa Barbara was outplayed in every facet of the game on Tuesday night. The Gauchos were out-blocked 14-11, out-hit .203-.190 and even out-dug 106-96. The most telling statistic of the night was total team kills. The Tigers landed 19 more kills than UCSB, out-killing the Gauchos 86-67.
After last weekend’s thrashing of both #25 Utah State and Idaho, UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory predicted that the Gauchos would need to finish third or better to make the NCAA Tournament. In order satisfy this goal, Santa Barbara will need to win the majority of its remaining games. Should Utah State, which currently stands in 4th place in the Big West, win the rest of its conference games this season, the Gauchos will also need to win out. If the Aggies should lose, it would give UCSB a little more breathing room, but there is not a wide margin for error as the team begins its final month of the regular season.