Tonight when the #19 UCSB women’s volleyball team squares off against Loyola Marymount University, the squad will be looking to add to its first winning streak of this young season.
Santa Barbara, which won last Thursday night’s match against Utah State and Saturday night’s match against Idaho, hopes that by bringing a different team to Los Angeles, its results will continue to improve.
The biggest change in the Gaucho attack tonight will be the decision Head Coach Kathy Gregory made to move junior Danielle Bauer from the middle blocking position to outside hitter.
“With Danielle on the outside, we get a player who can block the slide attack one-on-one,” Gregory said. “We can also be a little bit more aggressive at committing our middle blockers, and we will have a better swing at high-ball … opportunities in transition.”
Bauer, UCSB’s most consistent offensive threat over the last year and a half, has always been a threat from the back row, but this will mark the first time that she has started at the outside hitting position.
Although this will be her first start at the outside, there have been many Gaucho aficionados who have been calling for this change for some time. They believe that with Bauer on the outside, Santa Barbara will not only be a better blocking team, but it will be able to kill more balls in high-set situations, a skill the Gauchos have struggled with all season.
Moving Bauer to the outside will affect several other positions on the court as well. With Bauer on the outside, senior Brieanna Lampe will be moved back into the middle blocking position that she has played sporadically over the course of her Gaucho career. The shift will also place freshman outside hitter Amy Sarkaria in the starting line-up. Sarkaria has played in every match but one this year; however, the native of Orange has only notched nine kills while hitting just .121.
“Amy is a very tough competitor,” junior setter Brooke Niles said. “She always wants to be out on the court to help our team. I think that given the chance, she could turn out to be a consistent offensive force for us.”
Historically, Santa Barbara has thoroughly enjoyed playing the Lions. The Gauchos’ all-time record versus LMU is 23-3. UCSB’s last loss to Loyola Marymount was back in December of 1996.
Despite this history of domination, the Gauchos will not let themselves get overconfident.
“This is a team that is capable of being in the top 30 in the country right now,” Gregory said. “They have had some injuries this year, but they have a lot of size and they are always in the NCAA [Tournament]. We can’t go into this match thinking that we are simply going to beat them.”