The UCSB women’s volleyball team is going streaking. What began as one of its worst records in their history is nothing but a memory of the past for the Gauchos (8-7 overall, 4-1 in the Big West), who are now riding their longest winning streak of the season.
After falling behind in the first set of Friday’s match, Santa Barbara came from behind to beat Fullerton 28-30, 30-18, 31-29, 30-27 and also swept Riverside 30-25, 30-21 and 30-17 on Saturday night to sit alone on top of the Big West conference.
Saturday’s game against the Highlanders (12-5 overall, 1-4 Big West) marks the first time in a month that the Gauchos have been above the .500 mark. UCSB now holds a 50-0 record all-time against the Titans (11-7 overall, 3-2 Big West and is 15-0 all-time against Riverside.
“It feels a lot better to win, of course, and we got rewarded by getting Monday off so we can rest our bodies,” junior outside hitter Janine Sandell said. “Last night went a lot better [than Friday] because it wasn’t so much of an up and down. So we’re working hard to grind and play aggressive throughout the whole match, however long that may be. The team morale is up and everyone feels a lot better because we’re more relaxed and want to keep working hard.”
Even though the Gauchos had to work for the win against the Titans, many players on the team established personal and match bests. Sandell racked up 18 kills, the most on the night, followed by senior middle blocker Megan Blackshire who put up 14 and hit .481 on the night.
“Overall, I think we’re realizing what it takes to win,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We’re learning that we have to be prepared … We have to continue to play each game because it’s only going to get tougher. But I do see us improving and along with that goes getting tougher and wanting to play your heart out every night.”
Sophomore middle blocker Brett Quirarte laid down 11 kills — her personal best — while hitting .550 against Fullerton and junior libero Emily Hendrickson matched her career-high 28 digs.
Against the Highlanders on Saturday night, Sandell again led the Gaucho attack with 17 kills and freshman outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin followed up with nine kills as the Gauchos as a team hit .269 on the night.
“I definitely feel like we’re getting closer as a team,” Sandell said. “We’re all kind of getting on the same page, hopefully [we’re] all wanting to win and work hard and play for each other. It’s a different game when we’re doing that and also last night was fun. The main thing is for us to have fun and that just makes us relax.”
The sweep against Riverside marked the third match in the past four in which UCSB has needed only three sets to get the win.
“I think the most important thing is that we learned that you’ve got to be prepared,” Gregory said. “Friday night’s game challenged the team before we played Riverside and they played better. The league is our means of getting to NCAA [playoffs]; it’s not about rankings, what matters is that we go out and try to win every game.”