After a weekend that saw the Gauchos post back-to-back home wins for the first time this season, the UCSB women’s volleyball will head down to Malibu to face nonconference foe Pepperdine (13-7 overall). The Gauchos (9-14, 4-7 in the Big West) look to keep their momentum going on the road after a strong homestand at the Thunderdome.
UCSB will enter the match with Pepperdine carrying its first two-game winning streak since mid-September and playing some of its best volleyball of the season. The Gauchos recorded a three-game sweep against conference rivals UC Davis (3-20, 0-11 Big West) on Friday taking them down 30-27, 30-27 and 30-28, then followed that stellar performance with a gutsy win the very next day, dropping Pacific (13-7, 6-5 Big West) in four games 30-28, 30-24, 21-30 and 30-23.
The Gauchos are led this season by junior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin, the Big West leader in kills with 405, and senior middle blocker Brett Quirarte who ranks in the top ten in both blocks, with 100 even on the season, and hitting percentage, with a .322 clip. In the two weekend victories the duo combined for 44 kills, anchoring the Gauchos’ balanced attack. With the team appearing to be hitting its stride in a season that has featured tough losses, the girls are ready to take their show on the road.
“As a team, we are really feeling good and excited to keep this winning streak going,” freshman outside hitter Caitlin Saxton said. “We’ve been practicing extremely hard and we are motivated. We’re fired up and it would be great to go to someone else’s gym and do our ‘olé’ cheer on their home court.”
Pepperdine, currently sitting in third place of the West Coast Conference, will be no pushover for the Gauchos. This past Saturday Pepperdine broke a two-game losing streak, beating Loyola Marymount (11-10 overall), a team that swept the Gauchos at the beginning of the season. Led by junior outside hitter Julie Rubenstein, who is currently sporting a team high 4.20 kill-per-game average, the Waves present a large obstacle for UCSB. UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory looks to go with a bigger lineup to combat Pepperdine’s size.
“Pepperdine is a physical team, similar to Pacific,” Gregory said. “We are going to continue to use our bigger lineup with [senior middle blocker] Lauren Smith to get more blocking. We will have to balance our attack and continue to serve well to get past their big front row.”