During the first home stand of the season, the UCSB women’s volleyball team had a case of déj´ vu, sweeping both Long Beach and Irvine in front of a packed houses this weekend, snapping its longest losing streak ever.
On Friday, the Gauchos (5-7 overall, 21-1 in the Big West) beat the 49ers (10-4 overall, 0-1 Big West) 30-28, 30-19 and 30-25 and Saturday night’s matchup proved strikingly similar, as the Anteaters (6-9 overall, 0-2 Big West) fell quickly to UCSB 30-28, 30-19 and 30-19.
“This is what volleyball’s all about,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We were hitting .319 and the stats were extremely balanced throughout the whole roster. We spread the court and solved some weaknesses we’ve been having throughout the year.” In the first set of the Long Beach match, the Gauchos worked through a couple of rotation errors, falling behind early in the game. After battling back and forth and taking an 11-10 lead, UCSB never fell behind Long Beach and used that momentum to win the next two sets.
“I think our team chemistry’s a lot better and we all trust each other out there,” freshman outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin said. “I think we can keep this up as long as we work and practice hard. But we can’t keep a big head going into Fullerton next weekend.” The second set on both Friday and Saturday night ended quickly and with duplicate serving errors. From the beginning of both sets, Santa Barbara maintained an early lead, hitting over .300.
As if consistency wasn’t a key issue to begin with, Santa Barbara hit exactly .319 both nights.
“Tonight was a good example of how important offensively it is to hit .319 again and that’s a big plus,” Gregory said. “Coming off [Saturday night’s] win, our libero Emily Hendrickson had one of her best all-around nights. She had 16 digs and really set the tone … We played aggressively and had great serving, two things that have been bothering us in the past and came together tonight.” However, nothing stood out more than junior outside hitter Janine Sandell this weekend. She posted 28 kills, with a team-high .393 hitting average. Gregory said that Sandell has finally lived up to the hype that’s surrounded her all year long. To add to Sandell’s boasting privileges, on top of it all, she managed to go errorless in 36 swings against Long Beach.
“This weekend was more fun and I felt relaxed,” Sandell said. “It was definitely more enjoyable. I’m playing the game I love and competing hard out there. We played well at home and I think everything’s finally coming together. Our potential is there and things are starting to turn around.”
Another key element in the back-to-back sweeps of both Long Beach and Irvine was Gregory’s success in finding a reliable libero in Hendrickson. She led the team with 16 digs Saturday night and was attributed by McLaughlin as a key to her successful nights.
“Emily really helped us out and she’s really stepped up,” McLaughlin said. “Emily and Janine really helped to make everything come together tonight.”