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The UCSB women’s volleyball team needed every possible set to win its two games this weekend against UC Riverside Friday and Cal State Fullerton Saturday, with both games going the full five sets.
With the victories, the Gauchos snapped a four-game losing streak that had spanned the last two weekends and improved to 15-16 on the year and 8-8 in the Big West conference.
“This time we had a better offense, so we put ourselves in a good situation.” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We tried harder, we made less mistakes and we played with more energy. Those were the biggest differences.”
Fullerton dropped to 15-14 and 9-7 in the Big West after the loss. On Saturday evening, UCSB dominated the first set, hitting .333 and committing just one error. Fullerton hit negative .022 in the first set and lost 25-13.
“After the first game we had to make sure we didn’t let up. I think during the first game we were all having fun and we didn’t put pressure on ourselves,” freshman libero Taylor Formico said. “We were just playing our game and not making mistakes.”
Santa Barbara then took a 2-0 lead after winning the second set 25-21, but could not finish off the Titans that easily. Fullerton battled back to win sets three and four 25-18 and 25-20, respectively. In the final set, Santa Barbara jumped to an early 3-2 lead and never let up. Freshman middle blocker Britton Taylor recorded the game-winning kill to seal the victory 15-12.
Taylor hit .455 on the night and was one of three Gauchos with double-digit kills. Junior outside hitter Leah Sully led the team with 20 kills. The Titans’ senior outside hitter Kayla Neto recorded a match-high 23 kills on the night in her final home game at Cal State Fullerton.
On Friday night in Riverside, UCSB came out on top, ending its four-game losing streak. Riverside fell to 7-22 on the year and 1-14 in the Big West. Santa Barbara won the first set in a closely contested 25-23 game. The Highlanders, however, took the following two sets to lead on the night two games to one.
“After we were down, we came together as a team between every point, which is really important,” Formico said. “Our mistakes really beat us in the first two games, so we just had to limit our errors. Once we did that, we played a lot better.”
Riverside was unable to capitalize on the lead, opening the door for UCSB to fight back. In the fourth set, with the score tied 18-18, Sully put the ball away, giving Santa Barbara a 19-18 lead. The Gauchos won the fourth set with a kill by junior opposite Katey Thompson to force the fifth set.
In the deciding set of the night, Riverside jumped out to an early 4-0 lead. Defiant, UCSB scored six of the next eight points to tie the game at six apiece. The two teams exchanged points until the Gauchos went on a run to take a 13-9 lead and capped it with a kill by Sully to win 15-11.
UCSB returns home for its final two games of the season against Long Beach on Friday and UC Irvine on Saturday.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of November 19th, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.