The UCSB and UC Davis women’s volleyball teams are going in opposite directions.
After losing their last four games, the Gauchos are quickly sinking in the Big West. The Aggies, on the other hand, have won three in a row to move past UCSB in the standings.
On Tuesday, their paths will cross at the Pavilion in Davis, as the Gauchos seek to turn things around and UCD (11-9, 3-4 conference record) strives to keep the good times going.
UCSB opened the season with 11 straight non-conference losses but seemed to have turned it around with a three-game win streak, starting with a Sept. 16 victory over Eastern Kentucky. The next two wins were in the Big West, surprisingly catapulting the Gauchos into first place in league play early on.
That was the high point of the season so far for UCSB, now 3-15 overall and 2-4 in the Big West. The Gauchos have lost four in a row since that three-game streak, never winning more than one set in any match.
Most recently, UCSB dropped a 3-1 match to league-leading Cal Poly on Saturday evening. It was a disappointing result for Head Coach Nicole Welch’s squad, but there were positive elements to build off of leading into Tuesday’s match.
The Gauchos’ passing, one of Coach Welch’s points of emphasis leading into Saturday’s match, was much improved against the Mustangs, and UCSB was able to take the first set from a juggernaut Cal Poly squad. The visitors ran off the next three to leave the Thunderdome with a win, but it certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom for the hosts.
Of course, a hitting percentage of .119 won’t be enough to come away with a win on Tuesday, just like it wasn’t on Saturday. UCSB has cracked .200 in only eight of its 18 games this season, and odds are the Gauchos are going to need to make it nine if they want to have a chance against UCD.
The Aggies have taken advantage of the Big West bottom-feeders recently, with all three of their consecutive wins coming against the three worst teams in the conference. A win over the sixth-place Gauchos would keep that run going.
With five players boasting over 100 kills so far this season, the UCD attack is about as balanced as UCSB will see this season. Freshman outside hitter Mahalia White is top of the bunch with 231 kills at a 3.08 per set clip, impressive numbers for a true freshman.
Junior outside hitter Emily Allen is second to White with 199 kills but possesses a more well-rounded game than her younger counterpart. Allen is tied for third on the team with 14 service aces, and her 209 digs are good enough for second on the Aggie team.
If White and Allen aren’t enough, UCD can also depend on junior outside hitter Brianna Karseboom, sophomore outside hitter Lauren Matias or junior middle blocker Kelechi Ohiri, all fellow members of the 100-kill club, to bring the thunder on the attack. The depth extends to the setter position as well: junior Maddie Merlino (422 assists) and freshman Paloma Bowman (367) are both reliable passers and conduits for the offense to flow through.
Davis has hardly been a team of world-beaters this year, but they’ll enter Tuesday’s match with a lot more steam than UCSB. Where the Aggies simply will be looking to maintain their winning ways, the Gauchos must strive to mine the good out of their recent losses while leaving the bad behind.
The clock is running out on UCSB’s season, but a victory on Tuesday would add a little more much-needed time. That’s going to require the Gauchos to put together a complete effort than they’ve managed to do in the past two weeks.
UCD hosts UCSB on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Pavilion.