After two grueling five-set road matches in a row, the UCSB women’s volleyball team returns home this weekend, hoping to get on track in the Big West.
The Gauchos (8-7 overall, 1-2 in the Big West) came within three points of sweeping last weekend’s road trip and finding themselves in a tie for fifth place in the conference standings. Fullerton visits the Thunderdome tonight looking to continue its strong start, while UC Riverside comes to town Saturday in search of its first conference win.
“We were in situations to win every [conference] game, but we are competing at a high level where we’ll have a chance to win any game we’re in,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said.
Senior outside hitter Jamie Garbisch continues to lead Santa Barbara’s attack with nearly four kills a game and is coming off a 26-kill performance in the squad’s win at UC Irvine. Helping out offensively is senior middle blocker Olivia Waldowski, who is second on the team in kills per game, and ranks first in the conference with a .369 hitting percentage.
“I’d like to be a better serving team, get more aces, become a better blocking team and score a little quicker in transition,” Gregory said.
The Titans (13-3, 2-1 Big West) have the conference’s best overall record, but have lost two of their last three games. Fullerton has been successful on both sides of the net, ranking second in the Big West in hitting percentage, and first in minimizing opponent’s hitting percentage. Sophomore middle blocker Brittany Moore leads the attack, but will need all the help she can get as the Titans have never beaten the Gauchos in their last 51 attempts.
“Fullerton started off very well and won some games, but then lost a couple of league games,” Gregory said. “They may be a little down because they know they can’t lose any more games because they haven’t played anyone.”
The conference cellar has become home to UC Riverside (2-13, 0-3 Big West) over the past few seasons, but the Highlanders were victorious in their last match against UC Davis, ending a six-match losing streak. Riverside has been swept in nine of its past 13 losses. Junior middle blocker Angie Mitchell is one of the Big West’s top blockers and senior outside hitter Ashley Halperin ranks sixth in the conference in kills. The Highlanders have failed to knock off UCSB in 16 matches.
“Riverside is rebuilding, but everyone in this league has learned that you can’t take any game for granted,” Gregory said.
With a sweep of its homestand, Santa Barbara can move above .500 in conference play and regain its footing after falling to conference powerhouses Cal Poly and Long Beach. The two conference losses tie the squad’s total from last season when they were Big West co-champions.
The Gauchos are 2-1 at home thus far, the lone loss coming from then-#21 Cal Poly in the conference opener. Tonight’s first serve is set for 7 in the Thunderdome.