The UCSB women’s volleyball team remains tied for second place in the Big West after splitting its pair of weekend matches. The Gauchos (12-10 overall, 5-4 in the Big West) fell to first place Long Beach State 3-1 on Saturday after defeating Cal State Fullerton 3-1 on Friday.
“We really needed to spread the court and we didn’t,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “[Long Beach] was more physical than we are.”
Long Beach also beat Cal Poly on Friday and improved to 14-6 overall and 8-2 in conference play. The 49ers dominated defensively, holding Santa Barbara to a hitting percentage of .174 to go along with 12 team blocks on the night.
After a 25-22 first-set win for Santa Barbara, Long Beach got out to a 15-9 lead in the second set. UCSB came as close as 16-14 but the 49ers were able to extend their lead again to 23-16 with a pair of blocks by freshman middle blocker Alma Serna. A kill by sophomore middle blocker Haleigh Hampton sealed a 25-18 win for the 49ers.
“There was no rhythm in the second game, so we gave them a chance to [get back into it],” Gregory said.
The third set played out similarly, with the Gauchos down 9-6 early on and 13-9 halfway through. They were unable to get closer than within three points the rest of the way and dropped the set 25-19.
Needing a win to force a fifth set, UCSB scored first in the fourth with a kill by sophomore outside hitter Leah Sully, but that was the team’s only lead of the set. Long Beach went on a 6-2 run and led by as much as 15-10. The 49ers had match point at 24-20 when Santa Barbara scored two straight points to pull within 24-22, but another kill by Hampton ended the match.
“We had a good comeback in the fourth, but you have to be a little bit better,” Gregory said. “We didn’t put any pressure on them and we didn’t get any easy points.”
On Friday, the Gauchos saw more success and more involvement from freshman outside hitter Taylor Pischke, who had 12 kills, the most in any match for her this season. With the loss, Fullerton fell to 9-11 overall and into a fourth place tie in the Big West with UC Davis at 4-5.
“I actually didn’t know I was playing until a few minutes before the match,” Pischke said. “[Coach] just said swing high and swing smart.”
Down 2-0 after losing 25-19 and 29-27, Fullerton’s lone bright spot of the night was at the end of the third set. After rallying from an 11-5 deficit, the Titans slowly fought back to force a tie at 21 and then eventually scored four of the next six points to win 25-23 and avoid being swept.
In the fourth set, Santa Barbara came out strong, opening up a 9-5 lead with a kill by sophomore outside hitter Kara Sherrard, who led all players with 18. Up 11-8, UCSB closed out the match on a 14-5 run and an impressive 25-13 win.
“I think we were just tired of losing,” Sherrard said. “We came out strong, and we were fighting harder [and it paid off].”
Santa Barbara’s fourth set was much different from last week when it allowed UC Riverside to take control of the match and eventually come back to upset the Gauchos 3-2.
“That’s the first time we came back from a tough loss,” Gregory said. “Our serving picked up … the big thing is we didn’t let down, we kept attacking.”
The next match for UCSB is this Friday at UC Davis.