The UCSB women’s volleyball team looks to seek revenge Saturday night as it matches up with #20 Cal Poly, which snapped its 16 game home-winning streak in a 3-1 victory in the Thunderdome Sept. 23.
This time around, the Gauchos (11-7 overall, 3-2 in the Big West) are going full steam ahead, traveling north to face off with their Big West rivals who are undefeated thus far in conference play and boast a six-match win streak.
“Our weakness is that we are smaller than them,” senior outside hitter Jamie Garbisch said. “They have a great block and really like to triple block the outside.”
A height disadvantage did not seem to hurt the Gauchos in their most recent match with Pepperdine, however, as UCSB swept the Waves 3-0 for the third match in a row. Pepperdine, although considered one of the better blocking teams with its considerable height advantage, was out-blocked by Santa Barbara 13.5 to 8.5 in the Oct. 10 win.
“To beat [Cal Poly] we have to use our strengths and really spread our offense; they can’t put up a good triple block,” Garbisch said. “We are a very quick team with tough serving and a strong defense.”
Garbisch said her team’s winning streak is primarily due to a constant will to win and team chemistry that has helped communication on the floor. Anyone can see the chemistry, she said, simply by the way the team reacts when they score and, more importantly, by the support they give each other after being scored upon.
In addition, Santa Barbara has an arsenal of offensive and defensive weapons on the court, only adding to the benefit of its cohesiveness. The team’s middle blockers, Big West Player of the Week senior Olivia Waldowski and junior Brett Quirarte, have held things together in the middle all season. Quirarte hit a stunning .500 versus Pepperdine and had eight block assists, matching her career record for the second time this year.
New talent has proven to be very beneficial for the team, especially from freshman setter Stephanie Brandt who had two service aces and 36 assists in Tuesday’s match. Freshman libero Debora Leite had four aces on the night.
Garbisch led both teams in the match with 14 kills and senior libero Emily Hendrickson had a match-best 13 digs.
Head Coach Kathy Gregory has coached women’s volleyball at UCSB since the conception of the team 32 years ago, the longest tenure in the Gaucho athletics program. Gregory, who has an impressive 765-313 record in her 32 seasons, praised her team for its collective effort in the win over Pepperdine this past Tuesday.
“It was really a team effort tonight,” Gregory said. “We proved that it’s not about how tall you are but about how high you play.”
The Gauchos will have to prove this once again Saturday against a team who has lost just four matches this season. For Cal Poly (13-4 overall, 5-0 Big West), outside hitter Kylie Atherstone has a conference-best 4.78 kills per game and is third in the Big West with .38 service aces per game. Mustang setter Chelsea Hayes, with 12.48 assists per game, sits just behind Brandt in the Big West.
UCSB has history on its side, however, as it leads the all-time series with the Mustangs 39-17. Santa Barbara also carries more coaching experience as Cal Poly Head Coach Jon Stevenson has been at the helm of the Mustang squad for just two seasons, a period that seems like no time at all compared to Gregory’s term leading the Gauchos. Saturday’s match is an especially important one for UCSB because the Mustangs have yet to lose in conference play.