The roller coaster ride that has been the 2001 season for the #20 UCSB women’s volleyball team continued this weekend.
Saturday night in San Luis Obispo, the Gauchos (6-7 overall, 3-1 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) put away unranked Cal Poly (9-4, 3-3) in straight sets: 30-26, 30-26, 30-17. This victory came after a 30-19, 30-21, 30-28 drubbing at the hands of unranked Loyola Marymount last Wednesday.
The key to Santa Barbara’s turnaround against the Mustangs was its offensive attack. The Gauchos posted their second highest team hitting percentage of the season, hitting .305. The only match UCSB hit better as a team was against the University of North Carolina on Sept. 8 when the Gauchos hit .425.
“We treated this game like a tournament game,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We went back to the original lineup. Offensively everyone was great and we were able to sideout really well. We passed the ball well and then [Brooke] Niles got into a nice rhythm setting the ball and they just couldn’t stop our quick hitters.”
UCSB sizzled out of the gates, dominating game one with a blend of both offense and defense that this year’s squad has been looking for all season. Game two was almost a mirror image of the first, as the scores were exactly the same and Santa Barbara continued to flex its muscles.
In game three the Gauchos broke the match wide open. UCSB sizzled on offense, as the team hit at an unbelievable .541 clip.
“Our momentum was up,” senior outside hitter/middle blocker Brieanna Lampe said. “Everyone was playing very consistently. We knew we had to close them out because we have [had] bad troubles with that in the past. It was nice to finally get the job done.”
As usual, the “Big Three,” consisting of junior outside hitter Danielle Bauer, Lampe, and sophomore outside hitter Erica Menzel, carried the offensive load for the Gauchos. Bauer led all hitters with 16 kills, followed closely by Menzel with 15 and Lampe with 12.
Lampe, a four-year starter at UCSB, also excelled offensively. Lampe has been Santa Barbara’s most efficient attacker this season, and continued her success by hitting .500 against the Mustangs.
Menzel turned in the best overall performance for UCSB. In addition to her 15 kills, the San Marcos High School product added a match-high 13 digs and terminated the ball at an impressive .423 percentage.
“I didn’t feel confident hitting in game[s] one and two, so I started to focus on my defense a little bit more,” Menzel said. “I finally found my rhythm in the third game. I’m a little more confident now than I was last year. It is an area that I can control. My defense is always there for me, my hitting isn’t.”
Santa Barbara has suffered its share of struggles early in the season, but this weekend it will return back to the comfy confines of the Thunderdome. Although the Events Center has been closed for over a month now so the university could resurface and repaint the floor, the women’s volleyball team is hoping that a new floor won’t lead to different results in an arena in which UCSB won 13 of 15 matches last season.
“Being away from home for so long was very tough with school and all,” Gregory said. “Being home will help our chemistry, and the win against Cal Poly should give us a lot of confidence. We have to have the team chemistry.”