During its 11th game on the road, the UCSB volleyball team (4-7 overall, 0-1 in the Big West) dropped its season-opener against Cal Poly (8-3 overall, 1-1 Big West) in four sets Saturday night.
The Gauchos lost their fourth straight match, 16-30, 16-30, 30-26 and 25-30, their longest losing streak since 1995.
“Our biggest problem right now is consistency,” senior middle blocker Megan Blackshire said. “Sometimes we’ll have great passing while our hitting isn’t, and we don’t have one person who’s consistent all the time. I think we have the capability of being so much batter than we’ve been playing and it’s still so early in the season.”
The Mustangs have a newfound spark this year under new Head Coach Jon Stevenson and have already surpassed last year’s number of wins after just two conference matches. Santa Barbara, on the other hand, is still trying to find a winning momentum early in the season.
Santa Barbara lost the first two sets after falling behind early on, but jumped ahead in the third set to secure a win behind freshman outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin’s seven kills.
“There aren’t too many changes we can make right now [in the lineup],” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We’re just trying to play at a consistent level throughout an entire match.”
Santa Barbara has averaged hitting around .150 and last weekend it only hit .131 on the night and was out-hit .262 by Cal Poly.
“We need to work on passing and setting because those are two areas that need work,” Gregory said. “We also didn’t serve effectively against Cal Poly and made a lot of errors at crucial times. However, it’s only one game into the season and we can’t throw in the towel just yet. We just need to find our chemistry and stay positive.”
Individually, the Gauchos played well in spurts and showed promise of once again becoming the powerhouse that once ruled the Big West. Junior outside hitter Janine Sandell led Santa Barbara with 16 kills and hit .250, a match-high in the third game. By the end of the third set, the Mustangs came within a point of UCSB before they pulled away to win their only set out of four.
“Cal Poly has been doing a very good job,” Gregory said. “They brought in a new setter and a new recruit on top of a very good foundation. They have a lot of energy and good blocking and serving. The problem with us is that we can’t just go on the road and be intimidated and not play aggressively.”
Santa Barbara’s 11-game road trip is now concluded as it gears up to face Long Beach this weekend in its conference home-opener.