The players on the #19 UCSB women’s volleyball team felt that they made progress after their winning trip to Irvine on Sept. 22. Unfortunately, after Wednesday night’s match against Brigham Young University, the Gauchos appeared to have taken a few steps back.
The #14 Cougars defeated UCSB in three straight games – 30-27, 30-26, 23-20 – to win the match 3-0.
Santa Barbara (3-6, 1-1) was overpowered in almost every facet of the game against the Cougars (7-1, 1-0 Mountain West). UCSB was out-blocked 12-5, out-dug 49-47 and out-hit .276 to .176. If those three key statistics fail to tell the story of the match, nothing else will.
BYU Head Coach Elaine Michaelis was complimentary about Santa Barbara’s team after the loss, making special note to credit UCSB’s tough defense.
“After beating the Gauchos, I feel good,” Michaelis said. “Santa Barbara is a nice ball-control team. You have to be aggressive and put the ball away to win.”
Leading Santa Barbara was junior middle blocker Danielle Bauer who had an outstanding offensive performance. Bauer led all hitters with 18 kills.
The other shining performer for UCSB was freshman middle blocker Niki Carroll. Carroll announced her arrival on the Top 25 volleyball scene last Friday night when she tallied 10 kills, five blocks and hit .444 against #2 Long Beach State. The Yucaipa, California native continued riding her hot hand Wednesday evening by chipping in nine kills in just 14 attempts while leading all hitters with a .571 average.
The Cougars were undaunted by the play of Bauer and Carroll, and proceeded to take over the match and extend their home winning streak to 16 games. Led by All-American Nina Puikkonen who contributed 16 kills and eight blocks, BYU steadily forged ahead in each game to secure victory. Puikkonen was not the only Cougar getting the job done; she received plenty of support from senior middle blocker Jackie Bundy and junior outside hitter Sunny Hahe who each notched 12 kills.
UCSB must find a way to bounce back from this discouraging loss and produce victories against both Utah State and Boise before they return home on Sunday. The Gauchos cannot afford to fall into a hole in the always tough Big West Conference.