STOCKTON, Calif. – Ten minutes were enough to turn the match around for #20 UCSB (16-3 overall, 11-2 in the Big West Conference) on Saturday in Stockton. The precious time between the second and third games in any volleyball match proved to provide the necessary turnaround in the Gauchos’ 31-29, 25-30, 30-21, 30-24 triumph over Pacific (12-8, 9-4 Big West), which earned them a two-game lead in the conference.
Santa Barbara squandered a 19-13 lead in game one and lucked out on a net violation that would have given the Tigers a 30-28 win to start off the match, but the Gauchos scored twice after the 29-29 tie to take the first frame in extras. Pacific hit .362 in game two and defeated the Gauchos when sophomore outside hitter Stevie Mussie uncorked an ace and UCSB committed an attacking error.
“I told them, ‘The good news is that it’s 1-1. The bad news is that it should be 2-0,'” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “If we want to win, we’ve got to play every point like it’s our last.”
Gregory shuffled the lineup often Saturday, using 11 players, and handed the reins to senior setter Mari Bell for games three and four. Bell connected with freshman opposite Bethany Johansen’s last eight kills and 13 of sophomore outside hitter Janine Sandell’s match-high 24, and made a noticeable difference in the outcome of the match.
“There were so many long rallies and we just wanted someone to let the ball fall,” Sandell said. “I got a lot of great sets tonight, and it felt so good.”
Johansen did not misfire once on the night, hitting an incredible .684, and her teammates slammed 22 kills in game four without making a single mistake.
The Gaucho block suffered in the first two frames and only amounted to one point against five block errors, but the locker room talk proved effective when UCSB blocked seven attacks perfectly in the remaining games. Junior middle blocker Megan Blackshire teamed up with Bell for a resounding block that put game three out of reach at 28-20.
Santa Barbara fell to Pacific in three games on Oct. 1 without the aid of senior libero Kristin Nelson, who sat out due to illness. Pacific did not report that fact about the game to the Stockton press, and the ever-diligent Gregory inspired her squad to make a statement to the Big West.
“I wanted them to show everyone how tough we are to beat when we have Kristin,” Gregory said. “It’s difficult to play without leadership, but we had fantastic leadership on the court tonight.”
Nelson scooped 20 balls but was edged out by Pacific freshman libero Julie Magud, who had 21 to her name. Pacific junior outside hitter Ashley Groothuis smacked 18 kills, and junior middle blocker Sidney Bennett chipped in 17 to pace the Tigers.
Santa Barbara returns home to face Pepperdine tomorrow night at 7.