The road that the #18 Gauchos (22-3, 16-2 in the Big West) traveled to their third straight conference championship has been downhill since the clincher last weekend, but their steady cruise slowed after they ran over some Mustangs on Thursday. UCSB defeated Cal Poly (5-22, 3-15 Big West) 30-26, 29-31, 30-17, 30-25 but did not play like a team on a 12-match winning streak.
“It was one of our worst performances this year, and it was ugly,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “Cal Poly brought good serves, stopped our outsides and had pretty good blocking.”
Santa Barbara sophomore outside hitter Janine Sandell found her way around the Mustang block that bested UCSB 13-8 by pounding a match-high 23 kills. Sandell also recorded her third consecutive double-double with 18 scoops.
Cal Poly sophomore outside hitter Emily Doris racked up 14 kills and 13 digs, and junior outside hitter Kayla Mulder matched her kill total.
“If we didn’t have Janine tonight, we might not have won this one,” Gregory said. “We could’ve easily been down 0-2 the way we played.”
Several sets to Sandell keyed a Gaucho run in game one that erased a 12-4 Mustang advantage and eventually bagged the frame for UCSB, and below average passing and 10 attack errors were costly in the game two loss. Even after a runaway game three, Santa Barbara squandered a nine-point lead to make game four closer than expected.
“Obviously we weren’t playing to our potential, but it’s good that this came out now,” Sandell said. “We’re bad at playing down when [the opponent] isn’t someone like Long Beach.”
Aside from being in the same state, the Aggies (2-16) have nothing in common with Long Beach and could cause problems if the Gauchos play the same way in Davis on Sunday afternoon. UCD features a record-setting libero in senior Mary McClelland, who rests one dig shy of the career mark for the Aggies, and sophomore middle blocker Katie Wilson enjoyed a .455 attacking percentage in last week’s matches.
“I think we’ll be fresh, and [freshman setter Ashley] Dutro will start so that we have both setters in system,” Gregory said, only slightly concerned about the effects of Thursday’s effort on Santa Barbara’s showing in the impending NCAA Tournament.
“If a team serves us really tough, we could be in trouble.”