Lightning struck for the second time in one historic place in Moscow, Idaho – a place that #13 UCSB (10-3 overall, 5-2 in the Big West) will be happy to leave off its travel plans next season.
The University of Idaho Vandals (10-5, 4-3) overwhelmed the Gaucho women’s volleyball team by winning the first two games of a 30-21, 30-26, 26-30, 29-31, 15-12 affair at historic Memorial Gym on Saturday night. Santa Barbara folded in Idaho last season in four frames, and the two losses to the Vandals are the only ones in the UCSB-Idaho series.
The Gauchos fell behind 20-10 in game two but embarked on a 13-4 run to pull to within one before Vandal junior outside hitter Kati Tikker pounded down Idaho’s final three points to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room. UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory was upset with the lack of energy and cooperation on the court during the first two frames.
“I told them point-blank that they were playing selfishly and not as a team,” Gregory said. “The Vandals were ready to play and we weren’t, and we needed to start fighting and pushing and playing as a team.”
Sophomore outside hitter Janine Sandell improved from eight kills and eight attack errors in the first two games to 15 put-aways against just two miscues over the remainder of the match. Middle blockers sophomore Olivia Waldowski and junior Megan Blackshire tightened up and smacked 19 kills each and Waldowski played a hand in seven blocks, but the numbers were not enough to corral Vandal senior middle blocker Sarah Meek’s strong showing of 27 kills.
“Sarah Meek was unbelievable, and she was very physical in the middle,” Gregory said. “Our block wasn’t quick and we had trouble containing her.”
Idaho’s Tikker was also on the beat with 19 kills, including the match-winner in game five. Santa Barbara bested the Vandals with 108 digs and 79 kills, but Idaho took control of every other statistical category in its second straight upset of UCSB.
“They were playing on all cylinders and had a big crowd,” Gregory said, noting the 1,273 in attendance. “I’m upset that we took a step backwards when we knew what happened here last year.”
The defeat leaves the Gauchos with three losses in five matches, a situation that has not occurred since 2001, when UCSB went 17-14 and finished the season unranked. Santa Barbara’s current #13 ranking will sink when polls come out today, but that will not change the way the opposition views the two-time league champion Gauchos.
“There will be some early morning practices this week,” Gregory said. “The rankings will drop and that will get pressure off us, but teams are playing their best against us, and we have to respond to these challenges.”
Santa Barbara will spend the week tuning up for an enormous two-game set against Irvine on Friday and Long Beach State on Saturday at the Thunderdome.