Junior co-captain and outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin led the UCSB’s women’s volleyball team to their second conference win against UC Riverside (5-13 overall, 1-6 in Big West) 3-1 in Highlander territory. McLaughlin posted 22 kills, six digs and four block assists for the Gauchos (7-12 overall, 2-5 in Big West) on Saturday night.
The Gauchos kicked off the game with an early 13-9 lead, but the Highlanders fought back to tie the game at 17. It seemed that the Highlanders would take the game as they led 23-20, but the Gauchos retaliated with a 10-1 run to capture game one at 30-24. Sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno contributed 13 kills and nine digs throughout the game, while freshman setter Dana Vargas notched 49 assists, three kills and 12 digs for the Gauchos. After taking game one, the Gaucho spirit continued on as they took an early 10-1 lead in game two. The Highlanders continued to persist and managed to cut the lead to 27-23, but UCSB held on to win 30-25 and take a 2-0 lead.
“We came out strong, and we started off on the right track,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We are playing good. [McLaughlin] has been playing great and as a team, we were prepared. We are competing and playing better. We are taking each game one step at a time, and it’s been paying off.”
Game three was intense as the Gauchos and Highlanders battled to a 19-19 tie before Riverside pulled away and took the game. It seemed that the Highlander’s win prompted the Gauchos to show no mercy as they came out with a vengeance and posted a team hitting average of .378, the highest of the night, and took game four by a score of 30-19
The Highlanders were led by junior libero Kimberly McNeal, who posted 20 digs while senior middle blocker Angie Mitchell had 13 digs and sophomore outside hitter Dominique Cowling completed a double-double with 10 kills and 15 digs.
“[Riverside] is a good team,” Gregory said. “Anybody can beat anybody, so we always have to stay on top of our game. I kept playing a double switch and it was working perfectly. I tried to prepare our team, and it paid off. It was a tough loss for Riverside, but this game showed our competitive edge.”
The hunt for the Big West crown continues this weekend as the Gauchos travel to Long Beach State (13-5 overall, 6-1 in Big West) on Friday Oct. 19, followed by a Saturday match-up against Cal State Northridge (7-13 overall, 4-4 in Big West). Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.