The UCSB women’s volleyball team has found a winning combination as of late and will be hoping to ride the momentum of a five-match winning streak into road matches against UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton this weekend.
After starting the season off slowly, the Gauchos now find themselves tied for second in the Big West with a 10-8 overall, 5-1 conference record. Fullerton is tied for sixth in conference at 9-9, 2-4, and Riverside is in last place at 1-17, 0-6.
“We really just need to maintain focus and not let the previous matches and the success we’ve had get to our head,” senior opposite Katey Thompson said. “We have to maintain our focus in order to continue to play well, but it’s a little bit harder now that we have a target on our back.”
Up first for UCSB is Riverside, a team currently on a nine-match losing streak. While the Highlanders’ offense has only managed to compile a .119 kill percentage as a team, they do boast one of the conference’s top liberos in Maddie Hubbell. Although she’s just a freshman, Hubbell is third in the Big West with an average of 3.93 digs per set.
“It’s really important for us to just stay focused on treating these opponents like we would treat any other opponents,” senior outside hitter Leah Sully said. “We need to treat every opponent like they’re going to give us their best.”
When the Gauchos travel to play Fullerton, they will be looking for ways to dissect a strong Titan defense that leads the Big West with 17.72 digs per set. UCSB will also be busy trying to stop junior setter Julie Consani, whose 10.84 assists per set is good for third in the conference.
“We’ve been working on our defense every day,” Thompson said. “We feel like we can win a lot of long rallies, so we’re trying to be error-free offensively and keep moving our feet to the ball.”
The Gauchos have the second-lowest amount of errors in the Big West this year, something that has benefited them greatly. Their offense is by no means overly prolific, as they are second to last in both kills and assists per set, but they have found ways to win nonetheless.
Thompson has been a dominant hitter all year, averaging 3.45 kills per set and freshman middle blocker Phoebe Grunt has made an excellent impact defensively. Her 1.08 blocks per set are fourth best in the Big West.
The match against Riverside will begin Friday at 7 p.m. and the Gauchos will close out their weekend against Fullerton on Saturday at 6 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of October 24, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of The Daily Nexus.