The UCSB women’s volleyball team celebrated the Halloween weekend in high spirits after defeating rival Cal Poly in four sets Saturday night. Santa Barbara raised their record to 13-12 this season and is now 6-4 in the Big West. Cal Poly is now 3-19 and 2-8 in the conference.
The Gauchos started the night strong, opening the game with a dominant first set to win 25-16. Santa Barbara executed the multi-attacker game plan well early on as a team, spreading the kills around. Junior outside hitter Kara Sherrard led the Gauchos with seven kills in the first set, while junior opposite Katey Thompson came away with five and freshman middle blocker Britton Taylor had four.
“The middles on Cal Poly are a little slower and we tried to take advantage of that,” Sully said. “We made a point in the locker room that we didn’t want to have to go to a fourth set, but they started playing better and capitalized on our weaknesses.”
The second set was much of the same from the Gauchos, winning 25-20. They jumped to a quick 5-0 score and never relinquished the lead, never allowing the Mustangs to tie the set. Junior outside hitter Leah Sully joined in on the all-around scoring, compiling six kills in the second set while Sherrard came away with four more.
The Mustangs came back strong in the third set to win it 25-23. This time it was Cal Poly who jumped to the early 6-0 lead and controlled throughout the set, never letting the lead drop below two. Sully added seven more kills in the set to try rallying the Gauchos, but it was senior outside hitter Molly Pon who led Cal Poly to the set victory with four kills and a service ace.
“The one weakness we had was our right-side blocking,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “They took advantage of that and started scoring. Offensively we were better, but blocking we weren’t as good.”
Midway through the third set, the Gauchos subbed in freshman setter Jaylen Villanueva who helped lead the Gauchos to a mild comeback, but was a major factor in the fourth set.
“Having her in was good, it changed things up,” Sherrard said. “It gave us a different pace on our sets so we were able to fight back and get the win in the fourth game.”
Cal Poly took the lead early in the final set of the night, but it was the Gauchos who would battle back through 11 ties and four lead changes to seal the win on a service ace by Taylor to end the game.
On the night, three Gauchos came away with double-doubles and freshman libero Taylor Formico added another 30-dig night to her resume with 31 throughout the four sets to extend her league lead. She is now just 60 digs away from the UCSB record for digs in a season.
The UCSB win snapped the Mustang’s two-game winning streak. UCSB, meanwhile, continues to rise in the standings as the win puts them in second place in the Big West behind only Hawaii.
The Gauchos next travel to face Hawaii on Thursday, Nov. 1.