Entering this past weekend, with a four game home losing streak, the UCSB women’s volleyball team was finally able to celebrate at the Thunderdome, sweeping UC Davis in three-games and upsetting Pacific in four. For the first time since mid-September, the Gauchos (9-14 overall, 4-7 Big West) recorded back-to-back wins.
UC Davis (3-20, 0-11 Big West) remained winless in conference play as the Gauchos brought out the brooms in a three game sweep, notching their second sweep of the Aggies this season. Despite being out-hit and out-dug by Davis, UCSB managed to hang on, closing out three tight games. Junior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin led the Gaucho attack with 11 kills while junior libero Leigh Stephenson led the defense with 17 digs.
Closing games has been an issue for UCSB, who at one point led by at least five points during all three games. The Aggies managed to hang close in the first two, falling to the Gauchos 30-27 in both. Game three was another close contest, with the Gauchos needing clutch hitting to survive Davis. With the scored tied at 22 in the third game, senior middle-blocker Lauren Smith recorded three out of the final eight points for the Gauchos, finishing three-for-three on kill opportunities for the match.
“We could have been more steady, but we all played really well and pulled together in the end,” Smith said. “We finished strong and it’s a nice feeling to get a win on our home court. It was a big home win.”
Pacific (13-7, 6-5 Big West), coming off a 3-1 loss to first place Cal Poly on Friday entered Saturday night’s game hoping to replicate their three-game sweep of the Gauchos earlier this season. Instead, the Tigers were met with a balanced attack of both offense and defense. McLaughlin led the Gauchos with 14 kills, followed by senior middle blocker Brett Quirarte with 12.
In game one, UCSB led by as many as ten points, but key errors at the end of the game and several kills by Pacific’s junior outside hitter Alexa Anderson brought the Tigers within one point. A costly service error by Pacific’s outside hitter Kara Uhl sealed the victory for the Gauchos 30-28. In game two, the Gauchos jumped out to an early 5-0 lead and did not look back. Freshman setter Dana Vargas was able to spread the ball early and often, finishing with 38 assists for the match en route to helping four Gauchos finish with double-digit kills.
After dropping game three 21-30, game four looked grim from the beginning as starting sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno fell with an ankle injury, but with freshman Charlene DeHoog, stepping up the Gauchos ran away with a 30-23 win, sealing the match and upset for the Gauchos.
“I always knew that we had the potential to play on the level like we did tonight,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We played exceptionally well and balanced our attack, but what I’m most proud of is that we lose a player, we lose the third game, but we just get back up, everybody made big plays. This is what volleyball is all about, you play good, they play good, just find a way to win”
This week the Gauchos hit the road for a nonconference game with Pepperdine (13-7) and a match-up with Big West foe Cal State Fullerton (11-10, 5-4 Big West).