Women’s volleyball cruised to victory twice this weekend, beating both Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside in a pair of three-game sweeps.

On Friday, the Gauchos and Cal State Fullerton battled to a 9-9 stalemate until a strong kill by sophomore outside hitter Janine Sandell sent the Gauchos on a cataclysmic scoring run. They led by five or more for the rest of the game, ultimately taking the game 30-17.

After faltering a bit at the beginning of the second game, Santa Barbara climbed back from an 8-11 deficit to win a 30-25 decision.

Santa Barbara was in complete control in the third game, leading the entire way to a 30-20 victory for the game and the match.

Sandell was once again the kill leader for the Gauchos, finishing with 17. Freshman middle blocker Bethany Johansen and sophomore middle blocker Olivia Waldowski provided strong performances for UCSB, both pounding out 11 kills.

“We wanted to get Bethany more involved in the offense – that was one of our goals for the match…she had one of her better nights,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said.

Johansen also contributed four blocks and finished with an impressive .625 hitting percentage.

Saturday night, UCSB faced a deceptively tough Riverside squad. The Highlanders created several long rallies with their defensive effort in the beginning of the first game, until the Gauchos hit their offensive stride. After a long rally at 12-12, the Gauchos started flowing into a quick rhythm, thanks to the setting of freshman Ashley Dutro and the dominant hitting of Sandell.

After the strong offensive boost, the Gauchos never looked back, winning the first game 30-18, the second 30-15, and the third 30-19.

Not only did Sandell lead both teams in kills with 15, but she was also able to hold Riverside’s best outside hitter, junior Jamie DeKiewiet, to a -.059 hitting percentage.

As a whole, the Gauchos exhibited some gritty defense that appears to be in full stride. Nelson recorded 33 digs against the Highlanders, and 24 digs against Fullerton the night before. UCSB was able to hold UC Riverside to a dismal .031 hitting percentage overall.

Along with Sandell, the only other Gaucho to record double digits in kills both nights was Waldowski who finished with 10 against the Highlanders.

The next opponents for the Gauchos are Cal State Northridge on Thursday night and Pacific on Saturday night, both of which should prove tough road games. The outcomes of those games will likely decide who will come out on top in the Big West conference.

Waldowski made it clear after Saturday night’s game that the next games will not be easy, but that Santa Barbara will be ready to play at the top of their game.

“It’s going to be tough being in their gym, but we just really need to pick up every piece of energy we have and just go after it,” Waldowski said.