Like most of us in Isla Vista, the UCSB women’s volleyball team played host to some visitors this weekend.
Cal State Northridge and University of the Pacific, just like all the other kooky out-of-towners, were unprepared for what was in store. On Halloween the Gauchos avenged an earlier season defeat by making short work of Northridge 30-21, 30-21, 30-19 at the Thunderdome. Senior outside hitter Francina Edmonds and sophomore middle blocker Megan Blackshire didn’t need their capes and tights to play the part of superwomen on Friday evening, each totaling 11 kills and hitting a .444 and .688 clip respectively.
“Nobody likes to lose, especially to a team you know you should beat,” Edmonds said. “After slipping up last time, we were definitely not going to let that happen to us tonight.”
The Manhattan Beach first and second ball combo of juniors libero Kristin Nelson and setter Mari Bell was running smoothly, as usual. Nelson notched 19 digs and Bell posted 44 assists. The reigning Big West player of the week and Matador Jennifer Fopma was able to put down 13 kills, but the imposing Santa Barbara block forced her into hitting 10 errors for a measly .068 percentage. The Gauchos dominated every statistical aspect of the game, out-hitting CSUN .325 to .118, out-blocking them 8.5 to 7, and out-digging them 59-43.
“I really think this was our best team game of the year,” Blackshire said. “The coaches did a great job scouting, we knew the plan, and we executed.”
With the win, the Gauchos put themselves a full two games up on second place Northridge in the Big West standings.
On Saturday, Pacific brought its Halloween spirit and hideous black and orange uniforms to the Thunderdome. After dominating the first two games 30-19, 30-19 UCSB lulled a bit, dropping game three 22-30, only to come back in dramatic fashion and win game four 32-30 with two huge plays by freshman middle blocker Olivia Waldowski. Tied at 30-30, Waldowski beautifully painted the back line with an off-speed shot. Then for the game, she made a huge move on the net to get an even bigger solo block to send the Tigers back to Stockton. On the night Waldowski tagged 10 kills, hitting .500 with 4 blocks.
“We’ve seen Olivia do things like this before,” Gauchos Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “She has stepped up in some big games for us this year, and we are really excited about her future.”
Bell broke out with three service aces, 15 digs and 53 assists. She kept the Pacific blockers guessing all night, distributing the ball effectively and getting four of her teammates double digits in kills. Senior captain and outside hitter Erica Menzel had 18 kills to lead the team. Menzel also had 11 digs for another double-double performance. Nelson continued her quest for All-American consideration, taking big serves and big swings, helping out with 17 digs and a kill. Blocking, not usually a strong point for the Gauchos, played a huge roll in Saturday’s victory. UCSB tallied 13 team blocks and touched many more shots by Tiger hitters.
“It certainly wasn’t our prettiest game,” Gregory said. “Sometimes in volleyball things aren’t going to be going your way, and you just have to find a way to win. Tonight it was blocking.”
With the two victories, Santa Barbara improves to 11-2 in the Big West and 15-6 overall, staying two games in front of Northridge and Long Beach State. This weekend, the Gauchos will travel to Idaho and Utah State before returning home for the battle of the beach against Long Beach on Friday the 14th.