The #7 UCSB women’s volleyball team is in the midst of a record-setting season. This weekend in the Thunderdome, the Gauchos will look to claim their first Big West Championship, and only UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton stand in the way.
Despite all of the amazing and unprecedented success that Santa Barbara (24-1 overall, 14-0 in the Big West) has enjoyed over the years, UCSB has never won the Big West outright.
“Winning the conference is special for everyone,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said, “But it is especially special for the seniors. For them to be able to look back on the year that we had last year and then to see how far we have come in their last chance here is something that is really great for them to be able to do.”
In 1993, Long Beach State and Santa Barbara shared league champion honors, but the 49ers were awarded the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament because of a better overall record. Two wins this weekend would place the Big West Championship trophy in Gregory’s office for the first time ever.
With a win on Friday night, the Gauchos are guaranteed at least a share of the league title. However, should Santa Barbara win both matches this weekend, the team will grab the Big West title and the automatic NCAA bid.
UCSB currently stands at 14-0 in conference action, and needs only four more league wins to go undefeated for the first time ever in Big West play as well.
“I think that going undefeated is very important for us,” senior outside hitter Courtney Guerra said. “We want to build as much momentum as we can heading into playoffs and this weekend we have two matches where we can work on playing tough. I think that if we don’t go undefeated in league it is going to be a negative thing for our team because we have to stay focused. We have had problems in the past playing teams below us and we have a few more matches left to work on that problem.”
This weekend’s matchups look very good for Santa Barbara considering that the Gauchos are 51-0 all-time against both Riverside and Fullerton combined. In previous meetings this season, UCSB swept both teams on the road and hardly broke a sweat.
Despite all of the success the Gauchos have enjoyed against UCR and CSUF, Santa Barbara knows that all that matters are the matches this weekend.
“We just need to play our game this weekend,” senior setter Brooke Niles said. “We need to not worry about them, take care of our side of the net and come out ready to play.”