The UCSB women’s volleyball team kept on rolling this past weekend with sweeps over UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton.
Now halfway through the conference season, the Gauchos have turned their year around and are 12-8 overall and 7-1 conference. Riverside’s disappointing season continued as two losses this weekend dropped the Highlanders to 1-19, 0-8, and Fullerton now sits just above them at the bottom of the standings at 9-11, 2-6.
UCSB is in first place in the Big West for the first time this season thanks to a seven-match conference winning streak, their longest since 2005. The Gauchos have been near unstoppable during this stretch, dropping just five sets in their last 21 played.
The most recent win of this impressive run came Saturday against Fullerton. UCSB pulled away near the end of a tight first set, winning it 25-20 on a kill by senior opposite Katey Thompson. Leading 23-19 in the second set, the Gauchos conceded five straight points and the lead, but thanks to a 4-1 run led by sophomore outside hitter Ali Barbeau, they were able to prevail with a 27-25 win.
From there, it was smooth sailing for UCSB who saved its best hitting for the third and final set, winning it 25-18 and completing the sweep.
The Titans got a big game out of senior right side Alyse Hensley, who led her team with 16 kills and seven digs on a .277 hitting percentage.
The Gauchos got huge contributions from a number of players, most notably senior outside hitter Leah Sully who had a season-high 27 digs, and Barbeau, who ended the game with 18 kills on a .455 hitting percentage.
Chipping in with double-doubles were freshman outside hitter Ali Spindt with 15 kills and 15 digs, and sophomore setter Hanna Nielson who had 28 assists and 12 digs.
In the match against Riverside on Friday, UCSB took charge very early on and never looked back. A strong Gaucho defense led by freshman middle blocker Phoebe Grunt took advantage of a Riverside team plagued by attacking errors.
The Gauchos came out firing with 7-2 leads in each of the first two sets, winning those 25-17, 25-15. In the third set, the Highlanders got off to a good start with a 5-3 lead, but from there it was all UCSB.
UCSB went on a 5-0 run and dominated the rest of the way, winning 25-16, capping off the first half of a 6-0 weekend.
Thompson and Spindt led an unstoppable offense on the night with a combined 26 kills and a .521 hitting percentage. Sully once again played excellently at libero with 16 digs, and Grunt led the middle with five block assists.
Next up for the Gauchos is a road match against rival Cal Poly that will be played Saturday, 7 p.m. at the Mott Athletics Center.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of October 28, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of The Daily Nexus.