More than one Gaucho made history this summer.
Besides alumnus Jason Lezak’s historical relay finish that contributed to one of Michael Phelps’ eight gold medals for the United States in the Olympics, UCSB women’s volleyball coach Kathy “The Queen” Gregory achieved a milestone of her own, joining the 800-win club in her 34th season at UCSB with a sweep over Utah State on Sept. 6. Gregory is one of only six coaches in NCAA Division I history to reach the mark, a class that includes the likes of Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“It’s a great privilege to have been working at a school that I love for so long,” Gregory said. “I’m really doing something that I love. I realize how difficult it was to achieve, [but] I would trade any of those wins for more wins this season.”
Gregory earned her 802nd victory in a sweep against Texas State (25-16, 25-23, 25-18) on Saturday at the Pepperdine Asics Classic, improving the Gauchos’ record to 4-7 after a five-match losing skid. However, she claims the Gauchos played a tough schedule to start the season – including losses against #6 Stanford, #9 Cal and #21 Pepperdine – in order to improve the team’s RPI. The Gauchos missed their 27th consecutive tournament appearance last season.
“I’m not disappointed [with our record] at all,” she said. “Our chemistry and attitude are excellent. I think we know what the focus is in the league. Now [the team] knows what losing is like and they see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Gauchos start four sophomores and two freshmen, making them one of the youngest teams in the Big West. Against Texas Tech, sophomore middle-blocker Kasey Kipp’s .818 hitting percentage and senior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin’s team-leading 16 kills clinched the sweep. Sophomore setter Dana Vargas finished with 21 of the Gauchos’ 38 assists. Freshman middle-blocker Lilly Lopez posted another efficient outing with a .600 hitting percentage, and sophomore outside hitter Charlene DeHoog’s 10 kills also contribute to the Gauchos’ offensive attack, which uses three hitters at the net with setters playing the back in the 6-2 strategy.
“Charlene’s one of our most improved offensive players,” Gregory said. “And our senior leadership is really maturing, [though] they are a little slower and not as consistent. They’re playing to the best of their abilities. The freshmen this year are mentally prepared to play this schedule.
The Thunderdome will not host a Gaucho match until Oct. 3, but the team begins Big West play on Friday at 7 p.m. at Cal State Northridge. UCSB was predicted to finish 5th in the Big West, a conference that includes #19 Cal Poly and #22 Long Beach State.
“We have a good chance to do something this year,” Gregory said. “I want to win but it’s not life or death. As long as we work together we’re set for the future. We’re here for the now.”