The #23 UCSB women’s volleyball team knows exactly where it stands.
On Tuesday night in Malibu, the Gauchos squared off against #12 Pepperdine and lost in four games, 23-20, 27-30, 30-21, 27-30. Santa Barbara (10-9 overall, 8-2 Big West) has now played eight matches against ranked opponents this year and has lost all eight.
Coming off a disappointing three-game loss to #1 Long Beach State on Saturday night in the Thunderdome, UCSB was hoping for more against the Waves (13-3 overall, 8-0 WCC). Santa Barbara holds the all-time lead in the series between the two schools at 25-12 and defeated Pepperdine handily last year in the T-dome in three straight games. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, Pepperdine Head Coach Nina Matthies had her team on track this time and didn’t give Santa Barbara any room for error.
The Waves dominated action all night long in Firestone Fieldhouse, especially at the net. Although UCSB out-blocked Pepperdine 11-5, the Waves’ stingy defense and taller blockers forced almost every Gaucho key gun to have an off-night. Sophomore outside hitter Erica Menzel led the team with 16 kills but hit just .256. Santa Barbara’s most productive hitter, junior middle blocker Danielle Bauer, tallied just 12 kills and hit at a dismal .194 clip. Even the always-consistent senior middle blocker/ opposite Brieanna Lampe was kept in check and only allowed four kills.
The surprising offensive leader for Santa Barbara was junior outside hitter Courtney Guerra. Guerra was playing in her first match since Oct. 13. Last Monday Guerra injured her elbow and wrist in a freak accident and was forced to sit out last weekend’s matches against Irvine and LBSU. Guerra wasted no time showing that she wasn’t rusty as she led the team with 16 kills and amassed a solid .300 hitting percentage.
The Waves had a plethora of offensive weapons to turn to Tuesday night, and it seemed as if they used almost every one of them. Sophomore outside hitter Katie Wilkins led her team with 23 kills. Wilkins was followed closely in the kills department by junior middle blocker Stacie Rouwenhorst with 19, freshman outside hitter Brie Harris with 14 and senior outside hitter Melissa Snow with 10.
Although Santa Barbara managed to out-block the much taller Waves, they were out-dug and out-served. Pepperdine amassed 54 digs to UCSB’s 47. The Waves also notched seven service aces while UCSB could only muster two, both by Bauer.
The bad news for the Gauchos is that their schedule does not get any easier, as almost half of their remaining matches are against ranked opponents. The good news is that they are still in second place in the Big West, and if they can continue their strong league play, they will go to the NCAA Tournament for a record-tying 22nd consecutive year and again have a chance to make some noise in the postseason.