After a disappointing loss to conference rival #24 Long Beach State last Saturday, the UCSB women’s volleyball team looks to bounce back against Cal Poly (9-7 overall) tonight in San Luis Obispo and Saturday at UC Riverside (7-13 overall).
Last week’s loss put the Gauchos (7-9 overall) at 3-2 in conference play in a three-way tie for third with UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton. However, the team has been playing better than their record indicates, with a five-set loss to conference-leading Pacific at the Thunderdome on Oct. 3 and another against the 49ers last week at the Walter Pyramid. The night before beating the Gauchos, Long Beach ended Cal Poly’s 16-match winning streak in the Big West, putting each team in second place with 4-1 conference records. UC Riverside holds a 2-3 record in the conference, putting them in fourth place and a game behind the Gauchos.
Since the Gauchos play each Big West team twice, they have more than enough chances to prove themselves in a conference up for grabs.
“We have a great chance against Cal Poly,” sophomore setter Dana Vargas said. “This is one year where we’ve been in it every game. We have the potential and the skill, it’s just a matter of doing it.”
According to Gaucho Head Coach Kathy Gregory, Cal Poly holds a physical advantage over Long Beach. They also serve and block better, but lost the match in five sets because they served out 17 times.
“But Cal Poly’s dominant [in San Luis Obispo],” she said. ” It’s going to be hard to pass up there.”
The Mustangs, who were ranked #22 in the nation before losing to Long Beach, are undefeated against UCSB at Mott Gym and are 22-2 on their home court since 2005. They have beaten the Gauchos in five out of their last six meetings and are the reigning Big West Champions.
Senior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin is coming off her best match of her senior year against Long Beach, with her 27 kills tying a career high she set against Fairfield in 2007 and a .380 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno posted a season high of 16 kills in the match. She currently ranks third in kills behind McLaughlin and sophomore outside hitter Charlene DeHoog, who had 12 kills against the 49ers but hit less than .100.
Sophomore middle blocker Kasey Kipp leads the Gauchos in hitting percentage at .274 – the sixth best percentage in the conference. However, she tallied two kills and two errors on 17 attempts against Long Beach, giving her a .000 percentage for the night.
“Our team is so spread out, we don’t necessarily have that one big hitter that can always put the ball away,” Vargas said. “That’s why we need Kasey and [Charlene]. It puts a lot of pressure on Charlene because when she plays well, we usually pull it out.”
The match against Riverside will end the three-match roadtrip for the Gauchos. They return home against Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge on Oct. 24 and Oct. 25.