Loyola Marymount’s women’s volleyball team walked into the Thunderdome Tuesday night bringing along the confidence of a 10-match winning streak, but the Gauchos sent them packing by defeating the Lions three sets to two.

Santa Barbara topped the Lions after battling through the full five sets, all close games with scores of 30-27, 30-32, 30-28, 24-30 and 15-11.

Although it was not a conference match, Tuesday night was still a competitive game for the Gauchos (7-6 overall, 0-1 in the Big West) who were dominated by LMU (12-3 overall) in almost all statistical categories during the match. The only exception was UCSB’s ability to out-block the Lions, 15 to Loyola’s eight. However, the Gauchos had five players with more than 10 kills. Junior Brett Quirarte led the Gauchos with 17 kills while senior outside hitter Jamie Garbisch had the only double-double for the Gauchos with 14 kills and 10 digs on the night.

“We played as a team and we had good chemistry,” Garbisch said. “And we never stopped fighting, even when we were down.”

The Lions’ snapped streak, according to UCSB players, was due to the team’s cohesiveness and will to win.

Former Gaucho junior setter Ashley Dutro made her first appearance back in the Thunderdome as a Lion. She served up a .500 hitting clip with five kills and 13 digs and led the team with 62 assists.

According to Garbisch, the team is very different from 2005, after Janine Sandell, Jaimarie Sutherland, Bethany Johansen and Dutro all transferred to other schools and Megan Blackshire graduated last year.

But Garbisch believes her 2006 team has an advantage with better communication and chemistry on the floor.

“We definitely have better chemistry this year and it seems like we spread the ball around a lot more allowing everyone to contribute to the game,” Garbisch said.

Along with the cohesiveness of this season’s athletes comes valuable experience on the floor matched with new talent, especially among the starters. The three seniors, outside hitter Olivia Waldowski, libero Emily Hendrickson and Garbisch bring veteran talent and are helping the team’s two freshmen starters get into the swing of things. And the freshmen have proved beneficial to the Gauchos’ success this season, especially in Tuesday night’s game.

“[Freshman setter] Stephanie Brandt played really well tonight,” Garbisch said, “She spread the ball around to all our hitters and that was really good for us.”

The Gauchos’ schedule gets even tougher this weekend as they head on the road to face Big West rival #1 Long Beach State (9-3, 0-0 Big West) tomorrow and UC Irvine (4-9, 0-0 Big West) on Saturday. Long Beach was last season’s co-conference champion and, according to Head Coach Kathy Gregory, is picked to finish first this season in the Big West Conference.

“Our team is very different from last year’s,” Gregory said. “Our biggest challenge is to get the best out of every game and be consistent, focused, and mentally strong to play against a very tough schedule.”

Yet, despite the fact that Long Beach State is favored to win the conference, senior Garbisch thinks her team has more than a good chance of coming up with an upset this Saturday in Long Beach.

“I think they’re definitely beatable,” Garbisch said. “All we need to do is have our quick offense and play good defense.”

Santa Barbara begins a weekend road trip facing Long Beach tomorrow night at 7:30 and heads to Irvine on Saturday.