Though they’ve had tougher road trips this season, the No. 19 Gauchos (11-6, 7-2 in the Big West) are geared up and ready to maintain their perch in first place in the Big West with an away series against Big West doormats Riverside and Cal State Fullerton.
First up for Santa Barbara is a stop at cramped Titan Gym in Fullerton, home to the Titans’ only conference win this season against Riverside. UCSB handled the Titans (7-14, 1-8 in the Big West) easily on Sept. 27, hitting a sizzling .468 in its last three-game match to date. Fullerton junior outside hitter Lauren Goins is the best attacker on the team with 3.61 kills per game, but connecting at a frequency of .179 means that Goins will have to take a lot of swings to penetrate a Gaucho defense that registered 13.5 team blocks on Saturday. Titan sophomore middle blocker Amy Dixon boasts over one block a game, a higher average than any Gaucho, but it hasn’t helped the Titans shake their five-game losing streak 1-10 record over their last 11 games.
UCSB swept Riverside 30-24, 30-23, and 30-18 on Sept. 26, a game in which Santa Barbara Head Coach Kathy Gregory emptied the bench and played nearly every player on the roster for at least two games. The Gauchos hit an average .263 that night and have not yet had their entire offense firing at full power.
“We’ve been relying on the two or three hitters who are on in every match. We haven’t had one match yet where all six hitters are on,” Associate Head Coach Liz Towne-Gilbert said. “We need to have a balanced attack and play consistent, solid volleyball.”
The Highlanders (7-13, 2-7 in the Big West) can count on two players, senior middle blocker Rosanna Parizek and sophomore outside hitter Jamie DeKiewiet, to put up a fight against UCSB and attempt to end a season-long six-game skid. Parizek averages four kills per game and DeKiewiet is second on the team in that category as well as the team leader in digs.
Santa Barbara lost a chance to break away from the pack in the Big West last weekend against Irvine but is riding high after a win over Long Beach State at the Pyramid. UCSB has only played four games at home this year, but the time spent on the road has been beneficial to the team.
“With a huge crowd cheering against you and a bunch of huge trees for blockers, a win on the road is just as good as one in the ‘Dome,” Gaucho senior outside hitter Francina Edmonds said, citing Saturday’s four-game victory over the 49ers.