To Gaucho sophomore setter Dana Vargas, Saturday’s match at the Walter Pyramid against Long Beach State is more than just a traditional Big West volleyball rivalry.
Her sister, Nicole Vargas, is the 49ers’ senior setter. The two played together on St. Joseph High School volleyball team and even wear the same number (10). Her mother is the 49ers’ assistant coach.
“We’re super competitive against each other,” Vargas said. “I’ve never beaten my sister in a volleyball game before. It would be so sweet.”
Vargas is currently ranked eighth in assists in the Big West, with 8.19 per set. Her sister averages 9.82.
The Gauchos (7-8 overall) are tied for second in the conference at 3-1 with Pacific, who beat UCSB in five sets in their home opener at the Thunderdome last Friday. The start is UCSB’s best in the Big West since 2005, when the Gauchos went 12-2 in the conference. Ranked first is #24 Cal Poly, the only Big West team undefeated in conference play. At 2-1 in the Big West, Long Beach State (12-3 overall) is a half a game behind the Gauchos. They were predicted to finish second behind Cal Poly, but were swept by Pacific two weeks ago in Stockton.
“Long Beach has more to lose than we do,” sophomore outside hitter Charlene De Hoog said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
De Hoog leads the team in kills, hitting a career high of 22 in the loss against Pacific last Friday. She is currently eighth the conference with 174 kills, closely followed by the 170 kills of senior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin. Ranked second in digs in the Big West, senior libero and captain Leigh Stephenson leads the Gauchos with 4.09 digs per set. Sophomore middle blocker Kasey Kipp is ranked second in blocks in the Big West, with 1.17 per set.
According to Vargas, the Gauchos watched the 49ers’ match against Pacific and noticed that their outside hitters hit less than .100 in the sweep.
“Long Beach was very inconsistent [in that match],” she said. “But they’re big, tall and physical. We can definitely beat them with our speed – if we play smart and don’t make many offensive errors.”
The 49ers’ lineup is highlighted by 6’2″ freshman outside hitter Caitlin Ledoux, who leads the team with 156 kills this season.
The match will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Long Beach. The Gauchos swept their last match against UC Davis at the Thunderdome. On Oct. 16, UCSB plays division leader Cal Poly. They will not play at home until Oct. 24.