Once again, the UCSB women’s volleyball team could not quite close on a match they could have won.
Up 2-1 in sets, the Gauchos (7-9 overall) allowed Long Beach State (14-3 overall) to win three consecutive at the Walter Pyramid on Saturday night to steal the match 23-25, 25-21, 24-26, 25-19, 15-9. On paper, Long Beach beat UCSB in the same manner that Pacific did in the Gaucho’s season opener at the Thunderdome, where the Tigers came back from a 2-1 deficit to win.
“We got caught in the same little predicament,” sophomore setter Dana Vargas said. “We were up in the fourth game and we didn’t close. By the time the fifth game started, Long Beach was on fire, digging balls and making these defensive plays that seemed lucky – yet they made it work.”
For Vargas, Saturday’s match was her last chance to beat her older sister – 49ers senior setter Nicole Vargas – at the Pyramid. For the Gauchos, the match makes them 3-2 in Big West play, putting them in a three-way tie for third with UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton. Long Beach upset #22 Cal Poly (9-7 overall) on Friday in five sets, putting 5-1 Pacific in first place in the division and the 4-1 49ers in a tie with the Mustangs.
Both Big West losses that the Gauchos sustained happened in five sets after obtaining a 2-1 lead.
Gaucho senior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin hit .318 on her way to tying her career high of 27 kills in the match. The Gauchos hit .180 on the night, compared to the 49ers’ .297. Junior outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno hit 16 kills with a .216 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Charlene De Hoog, who lead the Gauchos in kills before Saturday, hit 12 kills on seven errors and 55 attempts for a .091 clip. She averages .232 on the season.
“You’ve got to have more than one go-to hitter [to win these games],” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We know that we can play with these teams, but we’ve got to have more balance.”
Long Beach State freshman Caitlin Ledoux led the 49ers with 22 kills and a .340 clip, collecting 14 digs and three blocks in the process. The team’s senior outside hitter, Quincy Verdin, contributed 20 kills with a .318 clip.
The first set witnessed 15 tied scores and seven lead changes before the Gauchos squeezed out a 25-23 win. In the fourth set, the score was tied six times and the lead changed twice before the 49ers pulled out a 25-19 win. The Gauchos never led or tied the score in the final set.
The Gauchos play Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo on Thursday.
“We’ve got to want to tear apart the other team,” said Vargas. “This is Santa Barbara volleyball. We are used to being the underdogs, but we need a little cockiness. We can beat these teams.”