Following an impressive display over the weekend, the UCSB women’s volleyball team looks to close out its three-game homestand with a victory over #23 Pepperdine tonight at 7 in the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos (10-7 overall, 3-2 in the Big West) cruised through the weekend without losing a game to Big West doormats Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside, but Pepperdine (6-8 overall) should prove to be a more formidable opponent, since it is undefeated against unranked opponents this season. Santa Barbara has posted a 4-1 mark at the Thunderdome thus far, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Big West leader #20 Cal Poly.
“They way I look at it, it’s not who the opponent is, but if we are improving,” UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We are serving better as a team, especially [freshman setter Stephanie] Brandt and [freshman outside hitter Rebecca] Saraceno. The offense is getting quicker, the middles are continuing to do more and we are adding some other dimensions to our team.”
Pepperdine has dropped the first two matches of its current three-game road swing, falling to #22 San Diego and #12 Santa Clara, while winning only one game in the process. The Gauchos swept the Waves in three close games last season in Malibu.
Senior middle blocker Sophia Milo anchors the Wave attack and is second in the tough West Coast Conference in hitting percentage. Outside hitters sophomore Julie Rubenstein and freshman Rachel Lumsden each chip in more than three kills per game.
“They are a very talented team and they play the toughest schedule in the country,” Gregory said. “You can’t look at their record because it isn’t a good indication of how good they are.”
Senior middle blocker Olivia Waldowski dismantled opposing defenses last weekend, hitting a combined .542 en route to her being named Big West Player of the Week for the second time in her career. Waldowski hit .700 against Cal State Fullerton with 14 kills, but tallied just one kill against the Waves last season.
Santa Barbara has already posted a 1-2 record in the WCC this year, with the win coming against Loyola Marymount two weeks ago. Pepperdine was victorious in its only game against the Big West this season, with a 3-2 win over Cal Poly.
“The WCC had several teams go to the NCAA tournament last year, and I think they are a little stronger than the Big West,” Gregory said. “They have some very good teams, and I’d say they are a little stronger depth-wise.”
Tonight’s match is the final nonconference affair for UCSB until the conclusion of Big West play in mid-November.
“I’m glad we are playing Pepperdine because it’s good game to lead up to Cal Poly,” Gregory said. “It’s always good to play competition from California from different leagues.”