Playing for the first time in 10 days, the #8 UCSB women’s volleyball team (8-0 overall, 3-0 in the Big West) shook off the dust with a 30-25, 30-25, 28-30, 30-19 beating of Riverside (9-4, 1-2) Friday night, then demolished the Titans (7-5, 1-3) in a 30-28, 30-19, 30-19 match in Fullerton on Saturday.
The Highlanders offered adequate competition for the rusty Gauchos, narrowly outhitting them in game one, despite losing the frame. Riverside senior outside hitter Jamie DeKiewiet was on her way to a match-high 27 kills when UCSB fell in game three for the first time since rattling off wins in 18 consecutive games.
“Riverside played very well and were prepared to play us,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “The loss in game three was good because we needed to feel some pressure.”
The Gauchos committed to DeKiewiet in game four, hitting .432 to ice the match. UCSB sophomore middle blocker Olivia Waldowski connected for 14 kills and had a hand in seven team blocks, while sophomore outside hitter Janine Sandell slammed 18 balls for the team lead.
Sandell struck again against Fullerton with a match-best 13 put-aways, but it was fellow sophomore outside hitter Emily Hendrickson’s night, as she hit over .500 with 12 kills and amassed 14 digs for her first double-double of the season. Though Hendrickson aced the Highlanders five times Friday night, Saturday’s game proved to be a better one in the eyes of her coach.
“It was Emily’s breakthrough match against Fullerton,” Gregory said. “All the teams scouting us have been committing in the middle, so I was also very impressed that Janine took some big swings on the outside.”
Throughout the weekend, Gregory employed the 6-2 system, which put setters senior Mari Bell and freshman Ashley Dutro on the floor at the same time and improved the block. Bell and Dutro combined for 108 assists over the weekend, while the Gaucho block triumphed in both games, 10-7 against Riverside and 9-6 over Fullerton.
“The 6-2 was very good for us because blocking on the right side has not been our biggest strength,” Gregory said. “Whatever the team needs determines who I will put out on the court.”
After just three matches into the Big West schedule, UCSB remains the only undefeated team in the conference. However, the Gauchos will face two second-place opponents at home Friday and Saturday, hosting Pacific (6-3, 3-1) October 1, and tangling with Northridge (6-4, 3-1) the following night.