The rollercoaster ride of a season continued this weekend for the UCSB women’s volleyball team, as it wrapped up its final conference set of the year.

On Friday, the Gauchos (11-18 overall, 6-10 in the Big West) were unable to stop the UC Irvine attack for the second time this week, falling in straight games 30-26, 30-28, 30-26. The third place Anteaters (21-10, 11-5 Big West) brought an unrelenting offensive attack with them to the Thunderdome. For much of the match the Gauchos stayed within striking distance of the Anteaters, but ultimately they were unable to slow down UCI’s big hitters.

“Our lack of ability to stop them one-on-one and on defense was what really hurt us,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We would make comebacks but could never get over the last little hump.”

In game one, the score was close the entire way, as both teams exchanged the lead five times leading to a tie game at 25 points apiece. Two UCI kills and three Gaucho hitting errors later, game one was over in the favor of the Anteaters whose 5-1 streak ended the game 30-26.

Similarly to game one, the second set of the match featured close scores, with the Gauchos once again working the score to a 25-25 tie. After tying the game, a serving error and an out of rotation violation cost the Gauchos two critical points and dug them into a hole they were unable to get out of, as Irvine closed out the game 30-28. In game three UCSB fell behind early and at one point trailed by as many as nine points. Despite a 6-0 run late in the game, the Gauchos could never catch up to Irvine, losing the game and match 30-26.

Freshman setter Dana Vargas had 31 assists and 10 digs while sophomore Rebecca Saraceno led the team with 12 kills and two aces in the losing effort. Despite out blocking Irvine, UCSB hit at only a .141 clip, the sixteenth time this season the Gauchos failed to hit above .200.

The offense that failed the Gauchos against Irvine was resurrected in Saturday’s match, as UCSB showed off its offensive capabilities and took down conference foe UC Riverside (30-23, 30-16, 30-20) in the final home game of the season.

An emotional pre-game ceremony honoring the graduating seniors was the prologue to what would be one of UCSB’s finest games of the season. UCSB, having never lost on senior night, came out determined to keep that tradition alive. In game one the Highlanders scored the first point, but the Gauchos never trailed after that. UCR kept the game close until the Gauchos posted an 8-2 run that featured two kills and a block from senior middle blocker Brett Quirarte and a kill by fellow senior Lauren Smith. A Vargas-ace and hitting errors by Riverside finished the game with UCSB on top 30-23.

Game two saw the Gauchos have their highest hitting percentage of the night, crushing the ball at a .351 clip. A 9-1 run by the Gauchos put the game out of reach for the Highlanders, as UCSB cruised to a 30-16 victory. In game three the Gauchos’ defense took control, causing Riverside to hit at a .022 clip. UCSB never trailed in the game as the match came to an appropriate end with a block by Quirarte.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the seniors tonight,” Gregory said. “Brett [Quirarte] had one of her most outstanding nights, and she really played hard. Everybody picked up the level tonight.”

In Quirarte’s final home game of her career she recorded a match high 16 kills while hitting at a .625 clip. Smith added four kills and three block assists for the Gauchos. Although this was the first losing season in school history, it was a growing year for the Gauchos.

“It’s been a bittersweet season,” Quirarte said. “Although it wasn’t what we all expected, I love everyone on this team and I wouldn’t have changed anything about them. We really bonded together and I’m going to miss every one of them.”