On Thursday night, the UCSB women’s volleyball team completed what Head Coach Kathy Gregory called “one of the biggest comebacks in Gaucho history” against #23 Pacific, defeating the Tigers in five games in Stockton. The team came back from a two-game-to-none deficit playing in front of a hostile crowd of 1,795 in Stockton.
After such a big win over a quality opponent, no Gaucho fan could have expected the high-powered Gauchos to fall to a struggling Cal State Northridge. But on Saturday, the inconceivable became reality.
After winning big in game one, 18-30, the Gauchos proceeded to drop the next three games 30-28, 33-31, 30-27 to Northridge, ending their road trip on a sour note. Before Saturday’s defeat, the Gauchos had only lost to the Matadors once in school history in 1992.
“We definitely missed a lot of opportunities, but I don’t want to take anything away from Northridge. They did play out of their minds towards the end,” said junior libero Kristen Nelson.
Passing in volleyball is similar to placekicking in football; it is a very refined skill that receives little or no praise when things are going well. However, when that one aspect of the game is off, it can cost the match.
Despite many uncertainties coming into the season, the Gauchos passers have given Kathy Gregory little reason to worry. Their two main receivers, senior outside hitter Erica Menzel and Nelson have two and three years of starting experience respectively under their belts, and both are extremely consistent passers. Saturday, however, the Gaucho passers could not find their usual groove.
The team struggled with its passing throughout the match, and there are a multitude of explanations for why this may have happened.
The team had a six-hour bus ride on Friday after an emotionally draining win and had to contend with the white back walls at the Matadome, making it hard to get a good read on the ball. Another possibility, uncharacteristic of UCSB volleyball, is the success of the Northridge servers, who out-aced the Gauchos 13-4.
“I don’t want to make any excuses, and I don’t think any one person played particularly bad. When it came down to it, they made plays, and we did not,” said a very disappointed Nelson.
The loss snaps the Gauchos’ 23-match Big West Conference winning streak, and will probably result in a drop from the Gauchos’ #15 ranking.
Saturday also marked the end of the Gaucho’s season-long four-game winning streak and their stay atop the Big West standings.
Now a game and a half back behind conference-leading Irvine, the Gauchos’ record fell to 8-5 overall and 4-1 in the Big West, while the Mats improved to 7-6 overall and 3-3 in Big West.