Coming off an impressive three-game winning streak with a loss to Cal State Northridge, the UCSB women’s volleyball team was defeated by Long Beach State 3-0 Saturday at the Thunderdome. Despite a strong offense, the Gauchos lost, 30-27, 30-18, 30-28.
“It was a heartbreaking loss,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We had just come off from [defeating] Notre Dame, Santa Clara and St. Mary’s and the team was feeling good, but it was a little tight. We were coming back, but at the end we let it get away. [Long Beach] is very physical and our team is very capable of playing to their level, but our defense was not as strong as it could have been.”
The Gauchos (5-9 overall, 0-2 in the Big West) received a great performance from junior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin, who recorded 16 kills in the match. Senior middle blocker Brett Quirarte had a solid match, tallying 15 kills on 27 attempts to hit at a .444 clip. Freshman setter Dana Vargas had 40 assists and played well despite a little bit of sibling rivalry. Vargas’ older sister Nicole is a junior setter for the 49ers.
In game one, Santa Barbara remained close to the Beach (7-6, 1-1 Big West), trailing by no more than four points, but the 49ers took control when Vargas sent a service ace past the Gaucho defense to extend their lead to 28-24. However, UCSB fired back to make it a two-point deficit when McLaughlin notched a kill and a block. The 49ers took advantage of a Gaucho error and freshman outside hitter Ashley Lee sealed the win with a kill to take game one.
Game two saw the 49ers in complete control, out-hitting Santa Barbara .472 to .212. Senior middle blocker Alexis Crimes led Long Beach to a game two victory with six kills, finishing with 15 kills for the match. Game three had the Gauchos and 49ers neck and neck with a 9-8 score until the 49ers executed a 7-0 run. Nevertheless, UCSB continued to fight and things heated up when the Gauchos decreased their deficit to 29-28 after a kill from McLaughlin. Long Beach ended the match when Crimes delivered a blow to Santa Barbara by notching a kill and capturing the win.
“We are trying to play as we go,” Gregory said. “Our offense is great. Brett is leading the Big West with her kills and Lauren is playing the best she’s ever played in years. Right now we are trying to be tougher and play more defensively. Our team is very young, but very talented. I always tell my girls, just compete and don’t be scared. This team is very hard to beat, and I was proud of our offense. Once we get our defense ready, it will all fall into place.”
The Gauchos will be on the road again, playing Big West rivals Pacific on Friday and UC Davis on Saturday. The Davis game is certainly one to remember, as it will be the first time UCSB has played the Aggies since they became a full-fledged Division I member.