After winning two nonconference matches in this weekend’s Baden Thanksgiving Classic held in Long Beach, the UCSB women’s volleyball team can thank the NCAA selection committee for earning an at-large bid to its 26th straight NCAA Tournament.
In the first matchup on Friday afternoon, Santa Barbara (19-11 overall) powered past Albany (19-11) 30-28, 25-30, 30-18 and 30-25. Reeling off that victory, the Gauchos carried their momentum over to defeat Western Michigan (20-14 overall) 30-26, 30-28, 28-30 and 30-25 later that evening.
UCSB is currently riding a five-game winning streak, with three of those past decisions coming against nonconference opponents to help the Gauchos’ postseason push for an at-large bid into the tournament.
In front of her hometown crowd, junior middle blocker Brett Quirarte led UCSB with a career-high 25 kills on 37 attempts en route to a .622 hitting percentage against WMU.
Against the Broncos, senior outside hitter Jamie Garbisch posted her second double-double of the day – good for 15th overall this season – totaling 18 kills and 15 digs. Fellow senior Olivia Waldowski rounded out the top three for Santa Barbara, with 17 kills and a team-high four blocks.
In the first set, both teams rallied back and forth with the score tied eight times, but the Gauchos’ superior hitting percentage propelled them past Western Michigan, who hit .235 to UCSB’s .273. In their only single-set victory of the night, the Broncos tied the score against the Gauchos 17 times, out-hitting UCSB .459 to .370. But Santa Barbara sent the Broncos packing in the fourth game, collectively hitting a match-high .395 hitting percentage.
Earlier in the day, Waldowski led the way against Albany in the Gauchos’ first victory, notching 22.5 points in the match, while serving up 19 kills on 35 attempts for a .486 clip. Defensively, she again led the team with three block assists. Garbisch led both teams with 22 kills and 12 digs for her first double-double of the afternoon. Again closing out the top three offensive performances in the match, Quirarte put up a double digits of her own with 13 kills on 26 attempts, leading UCSB with a .500 hitting percentage.
Although the Great Danes outhit Santa Barbara .406 to .211 in the first set, the Gauchos were able to come from behind and put away Albany for the first of three wins on the afternoon. Albany persevered and its offensive momentum carried into the second set, when the Great Danes again outhit Santa Barbara .400 to .267, securing their only victory of the day against playoff-bound Santa Barbara.
After coming off dual victories in this weekend’s tournament, and last week’s win over UC Davis, Santa Barbara is still only one of three select teams in the country to have participated in all 26 NCAA Division I Tournaments. Only Penn State and Stanford are the other two teams to have reached postseason playoffs since the event’s conception in 1981. In their 25 postseason appearances, the Gauchos have posted a 21-25 overall record.
Santa Barbara will next prepare to face #20 BYU (24-5) in the NCAA Tournament, at 5 p.m. at the University of Southern California on Nov. 30.