The #24 UCSB women’s volleyball team went looking for a warmer climate this Thanksgiving vacation, but instead, all it found was a cold dismissal from #4 University of Arizona.
The weekend was not a complete loss for the Gauchos (17-12 overall), as they posted a win over unranked San Diego State on Friday night before succumbing on Saturday night to one of the most potent offenses in the land. With the regular season behind them, all the Gauchos can do is sit back and wait for the NCAA Tournament bracket to be released on Monday.
Regarding the bracket, UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said the team will be satisfied regardless of its seeding.
“They are keeping everything local this year, so I know we won’t have to travel very far, but other than that I am not sure. A lot depends on your power ranking, and ours is one of the highest. We are happy to be in it this year. We are not going to complain about our seed.”
Saturday night was another futile attempt from Santa Barbara to notch a win over a top-25 team, which UCSB has achieved only once this season in 15 tries. The Gauchos never had any sort of momentum all night long, and the result was a disappointing 30-22, 30-19, 30-27 loss in what was a golden opportunity to create a positive feeling on a team still struggling to fire on all cylinders. With the Tournament right around the corner, Santa Barbara will undoubtedly be faced with the difficult task of traveling to a highly ranked school on the west coast, most likely UCLA, USC, Long Beach State or Stanford, and pulling off an upset in order to continue its season.
“I felt as if this weekend was ok,” junior outside hitter Courtney Guerra said. “We played tough, and although the scores don’t show it, I think we feel encouraged by how we played as a team.”
Senior opposite/middle blocker Brieanna Lampe reiterated those sentiments.
“We learned what a lot of our weaknesses are. Those are things we will need to work on before the Tournament.”
The Wildcats (21-4 overall) showed Santa Barbara why many people believe they have a legitimate chance at winning a National Championship by dominating UCSB in the most crucial aspects of the game: hitting and defense. Arizona tallied 63 kills to Santa Barbara’s 37 and dominated with 71 digs to the Gauchos’ 47. By failing to compete in both of these statistical categories, UCSB effectively took itself out of the match.
“It is really simple; offensively, we just need to do much better,” Lampe said. “They hit extremely well, and it is tough to play defense against a team that has five offensive options on every play.”
If the Gauchos’ performance on Saturday night exposed all of the holes in Santa Barbara’s game, Friday night showed why they are still a ranked team and one to be feared in the postseason. UCSB dismantled San Diego State (15-12 overall) in three straight games, 30-23, 30-23 and 30-25. Santa Barbara was led in the match by junior middle blocker Danielle Bauer, who had a match-high 14 kills and 15 digs.
With the regular season behind them, all that the Gauchos can hope for is an easy seed in the tournament, but with such a low ranking and poor record against top-25 teams, there is little reason to believe that this will happen. However, although there are a good number of people ready to dismiss this year’s UCSB squad as second rate, this should not be the case. The Gauchos boast an impressive roster of talented and battle-tested players who have been deep into the NCAA Tournament before and know what to expect. Once again, UCSB finds itself in the comfortable role of the hunters and not the hunted.