Coming off its first loss in October, the UCSB women’s volleyball team (15-8 overall, 10-2 in the Big West) bounced back higher than ever, completing a double sweep of Riverside and Fullerton this weekend.
Santa Barbara defeated Riverside 30-14, 30-27, 31-29 and did the same to Fullerton, 30-19, 30-22 and 30-23 en route to a record 14th consecutive victory in the Thunderdome since Oct. 5, 2004.
UCSB held Riverside (15-9 overall, 3-8 Big West) to the lowest score against any team this year, with only 14 points.
Against the Highlanders, it was all about senior middle blocker Megan Blackshire, who hit a stellar .700 clip. However, the most kills on the night belonged to junior outside hitter Janine Sandell, with 15 put-aways. Junior middle blocker Olivia Waldowski and freshman outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin were close behind with eight and nine kills, respectively.
“We have too many good players to not be doing well,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We’re doing something right and offensively we took it up a step.”
But the main focus was on Saturday night, when Sandell led the squad with 21 kills, as UCSB recorded its highest hitting percentage of the season, going .336.
Five Gauchos hit .300 or better, with a high of .474 on the night recorded by Blackshire. On the opposite side of the net, Fullerton (12-13 overall, 3-8 Big West) could only scrape a .181 hitting percentage.
“I prefer our hitting to be up in numbers like that,” Sandell said. “We’re getting better as a team, and I really think we’re starting to peak at the right time.”
In the first set, both teams seemed to be evenly matched, going back and forth until Santa Barbara ran away with the game after an 11-11 tie. The Gauchos won it behind a serving run by sophomore setter Ashley Dutro and some clutch kills by Sandell. Although Fullerton hit .419, UCSB proved its presence going on a single set-high .588 clip.
“Obviously as long as our hitting’s coming together, we’re getting much better,” Blackshire said. “I really hope we’re on our way to be #1 outright.”
Santa Barbara almost led the entire second set until blowing away a brief 7-7 tie. But after Fullerton was called for going under the net, the Gauchos capitalized on the error and went on another run to win it after Fullerton called a timeout with the score close a 19-15 in favor of UCSB. Behind Dutro’s serving, UCSB scored four points, two of which came on two more Titan errors.
In the final set, Fullerton came the closest all night to tasting victory. Behind combined efforts by junior outside hitter Danielle Hitzeman and senior right-side hitter Alyssa Opeka, who led the Titans with 11 and 13 slams on the night, respectively, Fullerton battled back and forth until a 9-9 tie early on in the game. After the second timeout call by Fullerton, Santa Barbara went on a 5-0 run behind junior outside hitter Jamie Garbisch’s serves, prompting “start the bus” cheers from the Gaucho Locos in attendance.
After this weekend, UCSB now boasts a 67-0 lifetime record against Riverside and Fullerton.
Next week the Gauchos prepare for their final two conference matches of the season.