Lion paws will attempt to block #8 Santa Barbara’s domination over nonconference foes tomorrow night at 7 in the Thunderdome, when the UCSB women’s volleyball team takes on Loyola Marymount University.
LMU (9-5 overall, 1-1 in the West Coast Conference) set a new program record for team blocks in a four-game match last Saturday against the University of San Francisco by recording 36 block assists against the Dons.
“They’re always a very big blocking team and they always are aggressive,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said.
Senior middle blocker Dina DeBernardi contributed nine blocks and 14 kills in LMU’s last contest and, with the help of freshman middle blocker Keri Anglin, may prove to be an obstacle for the Gaucho defense at the net.
West Coast Conference Player of the Week senior setter Nicole Oehlman is capable of hitting with her left hand, a talent UCSB should look out for.
“They have a very good all-around team,” Gregory said. “They have a good balanced attack.”
Included in that attack are senior middle blocker Kelli Nerison, freshman opposite Heather Hughes and junior outside hitter Krista Houseman, all of whom are over 6′ tall.
When the two teams met last year, the Gauchos lost 3-1 in only their second match of the season. This year UCSB is undefeated against nonconference opponents but faced a bump in the road last weekend when it lost to conference foe Pacific 3-0 before defeating Northridge 3-0.
“We’re trying to just fine-tune some points in terms of our offense,” Gregory said. “Just to make that a bit more deceptive.”
Sophomore outside hitter Janine Sandell continues to be the Gauchos’ go-to player, while junior Megan Blackshire and sophomore Olivia Waldowski have frequently contributed at the middle blocker position. Sophomore outside hitter Emily Hendrickson continues to improve. However, Santa Barbara can’t afford another match without senior libero Kristin Nelson. The effects of Nelson’s absence on the Gauchos’ level of play last Friday night were devastating.
“I’m trying to make some other players able to play if something does happen to Kristin,” Gregory said. “There’s lots of areas we need to improve.”