Every team yearns for the time when all of the chips are on the table and it finally gets to find out what type of a team it really is.
For the #23 UCSB women’s volleyball team, that time will come this weekend as it hosts Cal State Northridge and #15 University of the Pacific in its final home matches of the season.
Both UCSB (15-11, 13-3) and UOP (22-7, 13-3) are tied for second place in the Big West, so the winner of Friday night’s showdown will most likely finish in second place for the season and receive a better seed for the NCAA Tournament.
“Hopefully we will have a sense of urgency about this game,” UCSB Assistant Coach Mike Fitzgerald said about the UOP match. “We either win and get second in the league and get a better seed in the tournament, or we lose, get third, and get a tougher seed. It’s that simple.”
Earlier this season, when the two teams squared off, the Gauchos lost a heartbreaker, falling in the fifth set 15-12. This time, Santa Barbara hopes to improve in a couple of crucial areas.
“We really need to focus on our passing and serving tough,” junior middle blocker Danielle Bauer said. “We also need to keep our intensity up and feed off of the crowd. Also, we can’t let them get any big scoring runs on us. They can score in bunches, and we can’t allow that.”
If Friday night’s game will be filled with importance for the Gauchos, Saturday night’s game against the Matadors (14-13, 7-9) will be filled with emotion. Seniors Brooke Rundle, Brieanna Lampe and Missy Blackshire will play their last match in the Thunderdome.
Blackshire transferred to Santa Barbara after two years at Washington State, but for Rundle and Lampe, the Thunderdome has been their home since 1998. The two have participated in and won some of the most memorable matches in Thunderdome history, including dramatic wins over UOP, Long Beach State, and the incredible five-set victory over Stanford in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
“This is going to be an emotional last weekend,” Rundle said Thursday afternoon. “We have always had a big rivalry with Pacific, and we always seem to split with them, so we really want to beat them at home.”
Rundle also reflected on how quickly her four years at UCSB have passed.
“It is hard to believe that this weekend is already here, but now that it is, we want to make it a weekend to remember.”