The UCSB women’s volleyball team didn’t waste much time this past weekend. One night after taking Cal State Fullerton in straight sets, the Gauchos found themselves on the other side of a sweep against UC Riverside, splitting their two weekend matches against the bottom two teams in the Big West.
Friday’s result, the 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-17) decision over Fullerton, wasn’t much of a surprise. After all, the Gauchos swept the Titans earlier this season at the Thunderdome in even more lopsided fashion.
The Riverside sweep, on the other hand, was a much more startling result. UCSB, just like with Fullerton, had little trouble sweeping the Highlanders the first time around, but the rematch was a different story entirely.
Riverside controlled the majority of all three matches on its way to a 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-20) victory over UCSB, its first win over a non-Fullerton Big West opponent in 13 tries.
The split weekend slid the Gauchos to 8-19 on the season, and 7-8 in conference play. That’s good enough for fifth place in the Big West, a half game back of UC Davis with one match against UC Irvine left to try and close that small gap.
Prior to this past weekend, UCSB had hoped to maybe catch the Anteaters for third place, but Saturday’s loss to Riverside rendered that dream unattainable.
On Friday, however, the dream was still alive. The Titans scored the first point of the match on a Katelyn Nielson kill, but that would prove to be Fullerton’s only lead of the match. UCSB dominated from that point forward, cruising to a 25-16 win in the first set.
The final tally of the second set, 25-22, was slightly closer than that of its predecessor, but the Titans never really threatened the Gauchos at any point. UCSB led 20-14 at one point, and simply held off the hosts down the stretch to walk to the set win.
Eager to wrap things up, the Gauchos put forth a more dominant performance in the third and final set. Thanks to a handful of Lindsey Ruddins kills, as well as a couple each from Chloe Allen and Kija Rivers, UCSB controlled the set from the first point, and clinched the match with little worry.
As is tradition, Ruddins led both teams in kills with 26 Friday night, including the match-sealing kill to end the third set. 15 digs gave the junior outside hitter her tenth double-double of the season, by far the best on the team.
Ruddins didn’t wait long to improve that mark, either. The junior notched her eleventh double-double one night later against the Highlanders with 20 kills and 14 digs in another strong performance.
UC Riverside, however, proved to be more Ruddins-resistant than Fullerton. The Highlanders held the rest of the UCSB attack quiet, aside from Chloe Allen’s nine kills on .391 hitting, and secured the victory with some efficient attacking.
Despite entering the game with a hitting percentage of just .181, Riverside flexed a mostly-error free attack on Saturday night. Led by Mickayla Sherman’s 19 kills on .312 hitting and Brooke Callahan’s 13 kills on sparkling .579 hitting, the Highlanders hit .344 as a team, their best hitting percentage in Big West play this season.
Two Riverside runs, a six-point spree in the first set and a nine-pointer in the second, determined Saturday’s match. Both runs moved their respective sets from tightly contested to Highlander-dominated, something Riverside made sure not to squander.
Those two runs proved to be too much for the Gauchos to overcome, especially after the Highlanders slowly pulled away in the third set for the clinching victory. Riverside simply just didn’t mess up very often, giving UCSB few chances to capitalize on mistakes and turn the match around.
The Gauchos close their season out on Tuesday night in Irvine against the Anteaters at 7:00 p.m.