The UCSB women’s volleyball team enters this weekend having lost its last four games. Looking for a change in momentum and a positive ending to their season, the Gauchos aim for two victories this weekend when they take their final road trip of the year to face UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton.
Tonight, the Highlanders will welcome Santa Barbara for the first of their final two home games of the season. To this point, UCR has recorded a 7-21 overall and a 1-13 Big West conference record. As a result, Riverside ranks last in the Big West standings. However, the team has recorded two wins in its last four games.
UCSB enters the game in seventh place in conference with a 13-16 overall and a 6-8 Big West record.
“I think that hopefully all the players realize that there are only four more games,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “I think that there is an urgency to try and win as many as they can as well as play as hard as they can.”
In the last meeting between these two teams less than a month ago, the Gauchos took the win in four sets. Junior outside hitters Leah Sully and Katey Thompson led the Gauchos with 15 kills each while freshman middle blocker Britton Taylor recorded 12 kills of her own.
“[Riverside] never quits and they play every team hard. We are going to try and make them pass badly so that they are out of system,” freshman libero Taylor Formico said. “We’re going to try to shut down their outside Ashley Cox, who has been doing really well. We think if we serve tough and pass well, our offense will come along and we‘ll be fine.”
Riverside was led by senior outside hitter Amanda Vialpando, who scored 20 kills along with 20 digs on the night. Freshman outside hitter Ashley Cox put up 16 kills as well as 25 digs, tops for the Highlanders on the night.
Cox and Vialpando rank at No. 7 and 8 on the Big West kills leader board and will be key players for UCSB to keep its eyes on.
“We know not to take [Riverside] lightly,” Formico said. “Although their record isn’t very good they did just beat Irvine and have been doing well.”
In Saturday’s match against Cal State Fullerton, UCSB will have to overcome a team that will be playing with plenty of emotion and wanting to send its seniors out with a victory on senior night. One of those seniors will be standout outside hitter Kayla Neto.
In the last meeting between UCSB and Fullerton, the Titans left the Thunderdome victorious after five close sets.
“I’ve tried to explain that we cannot lose [Neto] no matter where she is on the court,” Gregory said. “When you least expect them to set her they will set her.”
Neto recorded 20 digs and a career-high 35 kills last time out against UCSB. She currently ranks second in the Big West with 4.35 kills per set and 474 total kills.
Leading Santa Barbara last time out against Fullerton was Formico with 41 digs. Sully and junior outside hitter Kara Sherrard each posted solid stat lines with 20 and 16 kills respectively, but it was not enough to overcome Neto and the rest of the Titans.
“[Neto] can hit all the corners of the court, but her favorite spot is zone one, where our weakest defense is,” Gregory said. “We have tried to practice and are cheating people over to that area.”
The last road trip of the year for the Gauchos will begin tonight in Riverside’s SRC Arena at 7 p.m. Then, on Saturday UCSB will take on Fullerton in Titan Gym at 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of November 16, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.