The UCSB women’s volleyball team was handed a difficult loss at the hands of No. 12 Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo on Friday night, dropping the Gauchos’ record to 12-8 overall and 4-4 in the Big West. They put up a respectable fight against the rival Mustangs but ultimately ended up falling to one of the best offensive teams in the country in three sets. This is Santa Barbara’s second straight loss, following a difficult five-set defeat to Hawaii a week prior.
The Gauchos again relied on star junior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins for the bulk of the offense as she tallied a game-high 18 kills. Freshman setter Olivia Lovenberg also played an important role in this one as she finished with 38 assists, a mark that led both teams. UCSB also got contributions from junior Torre Glasker, who recorded 9 kills and 12 digs, as well as senior Emilia Petrachi with 12 digs.
The Mustangs, riding a 15-game winning streak, came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the country and were paced by freshman Meredith Phillips and junior Torrey Van Winden. Phillips finished with 12 kills and Van Winden finished with 10 as those two lead the way offensively. Katherine Brouker and Avalon DeNecochea also contributed to the Mustang’s win by setting the defensive tone as they combined for 31 digs.
The first set got off to a competitive start as teams alternated points early and UCSB trailed by a score of 6-7. An attack error by Ruddins then sparked a run of eight straight points by the Mustangs, extending their lead to 15-6. Cal Poly did not relinquish the lead from that point and held on to take the first set 25-14.
The second set started similarly to the first, as teams traded points early until Cal Poly was able to establish a 15-9 lead midway through. However, the Gauchos showed resilience and fought back against the Mustangs’ onslaught and closed the gap to one point several times. A late kill by Torre Glasker made the score 22-23 in favor of the Mustangs, and the momentum had shifted back in the Gauchos’ favor until a pair of errors by UCSB ended the set and gave Cal Poly a 25-22 win.
Up two sets to none, the Mustangs got off to another hot start in the third set and again built up an early lead, this time by a score of 15-8. Even with things looking bleak, the Gauchos battled back and showed their heart when they cut the lead to four and trailed 23-19. In the end, they proved to be overmatched by Cal Poly and fell by a final score of 25-19 as the Mustangs took all three sets on their home floor.
The loss keeps UCSB in fourth place in the Big West standings at 4-4 with eight matches left to play. Losing a rivalry game is almost always a disappointment, but the hope is that facing a nationally ranked team such as Cal Poly will allow the Gauchos to better understand their weaknesses and work to improve their strengths along the final stretch of Big West play.
The Gauchos will continue their season-long four-game road trip as they travel to Long Beach State on Friday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. and follow that with a match at Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Oct. 20, also at 7 p.m.