The UCSB women’s volleyball team showed a strong performance in the first game, but was unable to keep its momentum, falling to #24 Cal Poly (11-7, 5-1 Big West) 3-1 at the Thunderdome Thursday night. With this loss, the Gauchos fell to 0-4 in home territory.
Despite the loss, junior libero Leigh Stephenson played one of her best games of the season with 29 digs and key solo blocks that kept the Gauchos (6-12 overall, 1-5 in the Big West) in the game. Junior co-captain and outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin was in top form with 20 kills and 11 digs. In addition, the Gauchos received great performances from their freshmen, as setter Dana Vargas recorded 50 assists, eight digs and four kills, while middle blocker Kasey Kipp recorded a team best with her .438 clip and 10 kills on 16 attempts.
Game one saw the Gauchos fighting their way to claim the opener. Coming back from nine ties, the Gauchos kept the game close as sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno and Kipp notched back-to-back kills to break a 25-25 tie and win 30-27 after a 4-1 run.
“We fought back, but we played with a team who has had more experience. We are a young team, but we showed we can play with anyone,” senior captain and middle blocker Brett Quirarte said. “We showed that we can compete. I’m really proud of Leigh. She kept us in the game and she fought and played hard. I’m proud of my team.”
The Mustangs regained their momentum in game two, fighting through 16 ties. Cal Poly out hit the Gauchos .488 to .333 and led the game 27-25 until the Gauchos executed a 3-0 to take a 28-27 lead. The Mustangs would retaliate with a 3-0 run of their own to capture game two. The Mustangs continued their drive with an early lead in game three with help from junior outside hitters Kylie Atherstone, who notched 21 kills and 11 digs with a .333 clip and Ali Waller, who tallied 17 kills, 15 digs and seven block assists. Waller contributed five kills and Atherstone hit six alone in game three and the Mustang’s 3-0 run towards the end of the game sealed the game win at 30-23.
“Our effort was never in question, but if we could have served better, we would have taken game two,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “Two of our consistent players did not play well today, but we had great performances from our freshmen and Leigh. This is probably Leigh’s best game she has ever played at UCSB. We gave them a run for their money and we have great respect. Despite the loss, this shows that the team is alive and is ready to fight back even when they are down.”
Despite a 2-1 advantage, the Gaucho spirit never died down and Santa Barbara continued to fight, but the Mustangs would not back down as they broke from a 14-14 tie with an 11-4 run. The Gauchos kept chipping away and steadily saw themselves within a few points from tying the Mustangs. With help from freshman outside hitter Charlene DeHoog’s kill, the Gauchos were two away from tying the game at 26-24. However, the Mustangs held on to their narrow lead and, with a final kill from junior middle blocker Jaclyn Houston, claimed the win 30-26. The Gauchos will continue their quest for the Big West on the road on Saturday Oct. 13, as they take on conference foe UC Riverside (5-11, 1-4 Big West) at 7 p.m.