The further the UCSB women’s volleyball team gets into its season, the more it finds out that a national ranking does not ensure immunity.
Loyola Marymount University (10-5 overall, 1-1 in the West Coast Conference) defeated #13 UCSB (9-2, 4-1 in the Big West Conference,) 3-1 last night in the Thunderdome, outplaying the Gauchos on all levels.
“Obviously we’re playing a very successful, great program with a great coach so our kids had to play very well,” LMU Head Coach Steve Stratos said.
The Lions broke down Santa Barbara’s passing, resulting in a domino effect of other aspects of the Gauchos’ game, diminishing and finishing the match 31-29, 30-27, 17-30, 33-31. LMU servers stayed away from senior libero Kristin Nelson, instead opting to single out sophomore outside hitter Emily Hendrickson. UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory was forced to replace Hendrickson with sophomore outside hitter Jamie Garbisch in game three.
“Jamie has a good jump serve and she deserved a chance to play,” Gregory said. “We could have set her the ball a little more.”
Sophomore Baylee Hassett stepped out of her libero role to fill a position that would have been held by freshman setter Ashley Dutro, had Gregory used a 6-2 offense.
“It would have been nice to have three hitters, but you can’t have three hitters if you can’t pass,” Gregory said.
Senior middle blocker Kelli Nerison and freshman opposite Heather Hughes, both 6’2′, led the Lion offense: recording 24 and 18 kills, respectively.
“We couldn’t stop Kelli. We couldn’t take her cutback,” Gregory said. “Heather had a great serve. She’s a competitor.”
The Gauchos slowly built a five-point lead in game one, forcing Stratos to take a time out at 28-23. Hughes emerged from the timeout with a kill to spark the Lions through a six-point run. UCSB sophomore outside hitter Janine Sandell tied the game at 29, but LMU pulled through with the win off a Nerison kill following a four-touch call on the Gauchos.
“This game of volleyball is just a couple of points from winning or losing,” Gregory said. “It was very disappointing in the first game having the lead [and losing it].”
Santa Barbara again gave up its lead late in game two. Nerison’s sharp-angle kill brought the game to 25-22, allowing Lion senior setter Nicole Oehlman to score two consecutive points on a block and dump, bringing LMU to within one point of the Gauchos. Freshman outside hitter Keri Anglin added an ace to tie the game at 26, forcing Gregory to call a timeout on the ensuing point scored by the Lions. Oehlman turned and hit the ball on the Lions’ second touch to end game two 30-27.
“We’re not tough enough in the key points right now to win,” Gregory said.
Santa Barbara came out of an eight-minute break to jump into game three with renewed energy. With Garbisch in the rotation, the Gauchos sprung to a 10-4 lead that quickly turned into a 10-point lead they were not willing to give up. LMU committed more unforced errors, but UCSB played to win, eventually closing the game on a service ace by sophomore middle blocker Olivia Waldowski.
“I was proud of the way we came back after letting the first two games get away,” Gregory said.
Game four saw a less determined Gaucho squad dominated by the Lions from outset of the game.
“They made the critical plays when it counts,” Gregory said.