The UCSB women’s volleyball team is looking to keep its momentum going as it plays host to Cal State Fullerton (7-7 overall, 2-1 in the Big West) in a crucial conference match on Saturday. The Gauchos (6-10 overall, 1-3 Big West) will need a strong performance at home to keep an anxious Titans team from leaving Santa Barbara with a victory.
The Titans are fresh off a devastating loss to Cal State Northridge (6-11 overall, 3-2 Big West) after a three-hour match that ended in a 3-2 victory for the Matadors. Despite great performances from junior outside hitter Jennifer Francisco, sophomore outside hitter Deven Bukoski and sophomore middle blocker Alex Wolnisty, the Titans were unable to pull off the victory. Before coming to the Thunderdome, the Titans will make a stop at Cal Poly (9-7 overall, 3-1 Big West) today for a conference match with the Mustangs. Whether they come in riding a win or a loss, UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory fully expects Fullerton to come to Santa Barbara with something to prove.
“[Cal State Fullerton] is a good team, and we have respect for them,” Gregory said. “They have good hitters, but they had a tough schedule this week. With that heartbreaking loss to Cal State Northridge, they will be looking for a win, but then so are we.”
The Gauchos claimed their first conference victory against UC Davis (3-12 overall, 0-4 Big West) last week due to the stellar performances of sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno and freshman setter Dana Vargas. Saraceno finished with a match-high 14 kills, while Vargas contributed 38 assists and 10 digs. Senior captain and middle blocker Brett Quirarte contributed to the win with nine kills and six block assists while junior libero Leigh Stephenson tallied 21 digs. Junior co-captain and outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin also had a big game, notching a double-double with 13 kills and 11 digs. All of the Gauchos will have to be at their best for a Fullerton team that is right in the thick of the Big West race. To that end, Quirarte knows that being at home won’t be enough to give the Gauchos an easy match.
“Playing at home is great, but just because we are here doesn’t mean we are going to win,” Quirarte said. “We have a sense of pride playing here, and that makes us want to win for ourselves and our school. I play for my team, coach and for UCSB.”
Saturday’s match will begin at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome, where the Gauchos have yet to win this season.