The UCSB women’s volleyball team has a chance to improve their 4-3 Big West record on Friday and Saturday, playing at the Thunderdome for the first time in two weeks against Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge.
“We’ve already beaten both teams, and we’re really eager to play them in our house,” sophomore setter Dana Vargas said. “We expect to come out with two wins this weekend – it will be a lot of fun.”
The Gauchos (8-10 overall) beat Fullerton 25-19, 22-25, 25-18, 25-16 on Sept. 27 and Northridge 25-27, 25-16, 28-26, 22-25, 15-12 on Sept. 26. While Northridge (6-15 overall) has only won one match in Big West play, Fullerton (11-11 overall) shares fourth place with UCSB and UC Irvine. The Titans split two home matches last weekend, sweeping Pacific before losing to UC Davis in five. UCSB holds a 54-2 all-time series lead against Fullerton.
Last Thursday, first place Cal Poly swept the Gauchos in San Luis Obispo before the Gauchos swept UC Riverside on Saturday. Senior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin led the team with 18 total kills in those two matches. She currently leads the team and ranks eighth in the conference with 3.36 kills per set and needs only six kills to tie the ninth place kills leader in Gaucho history, Maria Reyes, who played for the Gauchos from 1988 to 1990.
“[Head Coach] Kathy [Gregory] doesn’t really stress stats,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve been working on our weaker rotations in practice. The [middle blockers] are stepping up – when they play well, it prevents the other team from putting two blockers on one hitter.”
Sophomore middle blocker Kasey Kipp is ranked second in blocks in the Big West with 1.12 per set. She had six kills on 14 attempts and one error for a .357 hitting percentage against UC Riverside.
According to Vargas, the Gauchos might try switching sophomore outside hitter Charlene DeHoog to the right and junior outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno to the left. DeHoog, who shot poorly in Gaucho losses against Cal Poly and Long Beach State, regained her form against UC Riverside, tallying a .476 clip and a season-high five block assists. She currently ranks second on the team with 3.06 kills per set and leads all Gaucho outside hitters with a .235 hitting percentage. Vargas herself averages 8.28 assists per set, the eighth most in the Big West.
After the two home matches, the Gauchos will spend Halloween weekend playing matches at UC Davis and Pacific. They lost to Pacific in five sets in their first match of the season at the Thunderdome on Oct. 3 but swept UC Davis the next night.