The UCSB women’s volleyball team (17-8 overall, 12-2 in the Big West) hit the road over the weekend, defeating both Northridge and Pacific, clinching at least a share of their fourth straight Big West Title.
Thursday night in Stockton, the Gauchos rallied after dropping the first two games to defeat the Tigers 3-2. Pacific came out gunning for first place [[hyphen]] Santa Barbara, racing out to a 8-1 lead in the first game. Junior outside hitter Janine Sandell’s kill later in the first game brought the Gauchos within one, but Pacific rattled off five straight points en route to a 30-25 win. The second game was all too familiar for the Gauchos, trailing just 21-20 going into the stretch run, but faltering down the stretch, losing by an identical margin to the first game.
Looking to bounce back from subpar performances during the first two games, Santa Barbara took games three and four with relative ease, 30-24 and 30-22, respectively. The fifth game saw a seesaw battle between two teams unwilling to relinquish the match.
Santa Barbara found itself trailing 12-11 in the fifth and decisive set, but junior outside hitter/libero Emily Hendrickson’s ace set the tone for the Gauchos, who ripped off three unanswered points to take the lead, eventually winning the game 16-14, much to the chagrin of the Tiger faithful.
In Northridge Saturday night, the Gauchos swept the Matadors without the drama that plagued them in Stockton. Behind Sandell’s 14 kills, Santa Barbara defeated Northridge 30-23, 30-21 and 30-17 in the Matadome.
The win marked UCSB’s 14th victory in the last 13 matches. Santa Barbara finishes conference play at 12-2 and currently sits one game in front of second place Long Beach. However, if LBSU wins its last two games against Pacific and Northridge at home, the 49ers would receive the NCAA automatic bid due to the fact that Long Beach boasts a better cumulative game record, unable to finish worse than 38-13, while the Gauchos finished with a 37-15 mark.