The UCSB women’s volleyball team defeated Cal State Fullerton (11-13 overall, 5-7 in the Big West) 3-1 at Titan Gymnasium this weekend in a match that featured four closely fought games. The Gauchos (10-15, 5-7 Big West) and Titans were neck-and-neck throughout the match winning 30-24, 34-32 and 30-28, and losing 26-30 in the third game.
Junior co-captain and outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin contributed greatly in the Gaucho win, notching her 17th double-double by posting 22 kills and 16 digs while adding five block assists. Freshman setter Dana Vargas hit a career-high 16 digs while racking up 49 assists. Junior libero Leigh Stephenson had her best night of the season, picking up 31 digs to lead the Gaucho squad to victory. The Gauchos, as a whole, collected a .326 clip compared to Fullerton’s .277 clip. Game one saw Fullerton and Santa Barbara in a 10-10 tie until the Gauchos executed a 5-2 run. Fullerton continued to fight and led by one point at 15-14, but the Gauchos pressed on to win 30-24 after sophomore outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno hit a kill to take game one.
“They tried the hardest they ever had all season and it paid off,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “I had a heart-to-heart with the team, and I told them that I did not feel they had been playing the last few games with 100 percent effort. I really feel my talk got them motivated to get the job done. [McLaughlin] helped us the most. She was the reason why we won game three and four. She hit key kills and she went for every single ball. The whole team went for every ball and I loved it.”
Game two was intense as both teams fought through 15 tied scores and eight lead changes. After the Titans committed a costly error late in the game, the Gauchos managed to break free and win the game at 34-32 after a kill by McLaughlin. Junior middle blocker Brittany Moore led the Titans with 24 kills and 15 digs while freshman libero Cami Croteau led the Titan squad with 34 digs through the match.
“We haven’t competed in a long time, and now it is starting to happen,” Gregory said. “We haven’t tipped for so long, and this match, we were going for every tip. Fullerton is a good team, and they never give up, so it was a great match to see us win against a team that gives everything they got. [Moore] is such a great player, and she always gives us hell, and she did it again. We are playing better, and we just got to keep our effort and momentum going.”
The Titans got on the board with a win in game three, sending the match to a pivotal fourth game. The Gauchos broke away from a 25-25 tie after McLaughlin hit three back-to-back kills to launch UCSB into a 28-25 lead. Despite the lead, the Titans did not back down and executed a 3-0 run to tie the game once again, but the Gauchos held on to take game four and the match at 30-28.
The Gauchos’ next match will be Nov. 8 against #23 Cal Poly (17-7 overall, 11-1 Big West) at 7 p.m. in San Luis Obispo.