The UCSB women’s volleyball team split its weekend games, sustaining its .500 record this season. after losing to Cal State Fullerton 3-2 on Friday and then defeating UC Riverside 3-1 on Saturday.
On Saturday night, the Gauchos took on a struggling Riverside team and edged out a win in four sets to improve to 12-12 overall and 5-4 in the Big West
“We got a little comfortable with the 2-0 lead; our serving was a little weak, and [Riverside] had a fight in them,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “That was the best defense anyone has played against us.”
The Highlanders dropped to 5-17 on the year (0-9 Big West) but were competitive most of the night. After a dominant first set by Santa Barbara, Riverside came out fighting in each of the following three sets, nearly taking it to a fifth. Flashes of last year’s defeat to a last-place Riverside team in five sets were looming for the Gauchos.
“We went in the locker room and Kathy reminded us that we [were] up 2-0 and not to let them come back like they did last year,” junior opposite Katey Thompson said. “That was always in the back of our mind.”
Santa Barbara was happy to have Thompson back in the lineup after she missed Friday’s game with a knee injury. And she certainly made her presence felt all night. She recorded a double-double with 15 kills and 11 digs, with a hitting percentage of .438.
Junior outside hitter Leah Sully balanced the offense with a double-double of her own, tallying 15 kills and 18 digs. Freshman middle blocker Britton Taylor recorded 12 kills as well, emphasizing the Santa Barbara’s multifaceted attack.
On Friday night, the Gauchos lost a heartbreaker to Fullerton in five sets. Neither team was able to run away with it at any point. The Titans were down 6-1 early in the third set, but a well-called timeout by Fullerton sparked a comeback that led to a 27-25 win.
“We weren’t consistent enough,” Gregory said. “There were some bad choices setting and then the game gets away from you.”
The Titans were led by the reigning Big West Player of the Week, senior outside hitter Kayla Neto. Neto dominated, recording a career-high 35 kills. She took 99 swings on the night and also recorded 20 digs.
“She was really tough,” junior outside hitter Kara Sherrard said. “She did play well, but when we were getting those leads, we were just getting comfortable and we need to get better at having the killer instinct.”
In Thompson’s absence, Sherrard stepped up and had a big night. She put the ball away 16 times and recorded a career-high 26 digs, recording a double-double along with Sully, who had 20 kills and 22 digs. Freshman libero Taylor Formico tied a school record with 41 digs on the night, doing her part in keeping the Gauchos in the game.