Heartbreak was the name of the game on Saturday as the UCSB women’s volleyball team fell to Big West foe Cal State Fullerton (8-8 overall, 3-2 in the Big West) 3-2 in a five-game match at the Thunderdome. The Gauchos (6-11 overall, 1-4 in the Big West) came back from a 2-1 deficit with a dominant game four, but in the end the Titans left town with the narrow victory.
“The effort level was never in question,” sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno said. “Things didn’t go so well in game one, but we started to communicate and things fell into place. We played hard, and we went five games. I was unhappy, but I gave it my all and it’s hard to lose. We were really neck and neck, but the team did all we could.”
Game one was all about the Titans as they jumped out to an early lead with a 6-0 run and their hitting average was .351 compared to the Gauchos’ .022. Junior middle blocker Brittany Moore led the Titans with 28 kills and 25 digs with five block assists and executed six kills in game one. Trailing behind Moore was junior outside hitter Jennifer Francisco who contributed 24 kills, 11 digs and a .382 hitting clip.
Game two seemed to pick up for the Gauchos as UCSB posted a 5-1 run after trailing 20-17 to take their first lead of the game at 22-21. The Gauchos continued their momentum with a stellar performance by junior co-captain and outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin, who notched 20 kills and 16 digs throughout the match, and her game point kill and an error by the Titans gave UCSB the game. Freshman setter Jessica Welch posted a season high 50 assists and 13 digs and Saraceno contributed greatly to the Gauchos’ offense, with 17 kills and 18 digs.
“Jessica Welch, who isn’t our starting setter, really stepped it up and it was great,” McLaughlin said. “[The match was] hard because we have such a young team, and experience does really go a long way. It can be overwhelming when the majority of the team is primarily freshmen and there aren’t a lot of older members, so I think we have been doing great with what we have.”
With the score tied at 18 in game three, Fullerton was able to hit back-to-back kills to pull away, eventually capturing a 30-26 win. Despite the Titan’s win, the Gauchos out-hit Fullerton during game three, .261 to .246.
The Gauchos took control early in game four, taking a 7-1 lead behind three kills from senior co-captain and middle blocker Brett Quirarte. The Gauchos had complete control throughout the game and a final kill from Saraceno gave the Gauchos a 30-25 win.
“Game four was the best game we played,” McLaughlin said. “Our first game was off, but we started to pick up on the rest and it really showed in game four.”
The final game of the match saw Fullerton and UCSB tied at three until the Titans pulled a 6-1 run to start to pull away. The Gauchos continued to fight back, but the Titan defense held on to take game five and the match with a 15-12 win.
UCSB will have another chance to claim a conference win on Thursday Oct. 11 when they play Cal Poly (10-7 overall, 4-1 in Big West) at 7p.m. in the Thunderdome.