More than 500 fans witnessed the UCSB women’s volleyball team’s humbling 3-0 loss to Pacific in its home opener Friday night in the Thunderdome, but only half as many volleyball enthusiasts returned the following night to watch a fired-up Gaucho squad turn around and sweep Cal State Northridge 3-0.
Senior libero and team leader Kristin Nelson was missing from Friday’s match due to illness, leaving Santa Barbara out of system.
“We’re a team that plays in system, but I give Pacific credit,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We were just out of system too much.”
Sophomore libero Baylee Hassett started the first match of her career, passing well enough to earn a spot on Saturday’s squad. However, Santa Barbara (9-1 overall, 4-1 in the Big West) could not supply setters senior Mari Bell and freshman Ashley Dutro with enough good passes to run an effective offense.
“They’re not used to running balls down,” Gregory said. “We were always on defense.”
Having recently knocked off #23 Long Beach State, a focused Pacific team took down the previously undefeated #8 Gauchos 30-28, 30-28, 30-24.
“This is a group of kids that works hard every day at practice, and you can see that by how hard they worked tonight,” Pacific Head Coach Jayne McHugh said. “We worried more about it being a conference match than anything else.”
Pacific junior opposite Sidney Bennett, the reigning Big West Player of the Week, came in to Friday’s match a threat to the Gaucho defense, but UCSB managed to limit her to a .136 clip. Outside hitters sophomore Stevie Mussie and junior Ashley Groothuis recorded 12 and 15 kills, respectively, for the Tigers (8-3, 5-1 in the Big West).
“I think that every team needs a humbling loss at some point in the season,” junior middle blocker Megan Blackshire said. “It’s going to only make us do better from here on out.”
Despite facing what Gregory called a “road block,” Santa Barbara defeated Northridge 30-25, 30-21, 30-22 Saturday night with Nelson back on the court.
The Gauchos played in system, albeit a different one, starting Bell and using a 5-1 instead of continuing to play both Bell and Dutro in a 6-2, as was used against Pacific. Santa Barbara finished the night hitting a collective .234 as opposed to .176 the night before.
“I figured to go with a senior that’s been there and run a 5-1 because last night was a little unsettling,” Gregory said on Saturday.
Bell played exclusively throughout the match, effectively distributing the ball and adding four kills of her own.