The UCSB women’s volleyball team has a chance to redeem themselves at the Thunderdome on Friday night against Big West leader Long Beach State, a team who beat the Gauchos in five sets at the Walter Pyramid on Oct. 11. Tomorrow’s match begins at 7 p.m.
The 49ers (19-4 overall) are beating Cal Poly by half a game in the conference with an 8-2 record in the Big West. Although Long Beach did not play last weekend, the Mustangs lost two in a row to Pacific and UC Davis, making them 8-3 and securing the 49ers’ lead.
“Those losses show that everyone can lose on the road,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “There’s pressure for Long Beach out here to win both their games and [maintain] first place.”
For the Gauchos, the loss to Long Beach represents the story of their season: so close, yet so far. They had won the first and third sets, before losing the fourth set 25-19 and the fifth 15-9. Senior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin hit a career-tying 27 kills, hitting a .318 clip with a team-leading 20 digs. Dana Vargas, playing against her older sister Nicole, who is a senior setter for the 49ers, tallied a season high of 53 assists. Nicole had 60 in the battle, along with ten digs.
“Just because we’re sisters, we’re really competitive – I can’t even play Monopoly with her because it’s so frustrating,” Vargas said. “But when it comes to volleyball, for my sake I just try to look at it as a normal match even though it’s really hard to.”
Gregory plans to adjust the lineup for Friday’s match, employing 5-11 freshman outside hitter Nikki Doyle to start over junior outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno. Gregory might also let sophomore middle blocker Kasey Kipp serve and keep freshman middle blocker Lily Lopez at the net.
“Nikki’s jumping a little higher right now,” Gregory said. “Offensively, Becca has the best serve on the team, but she has not quite been able to get it done this week.”
This season, the Gauchos have aced 110 serves – 20 more than their opponents. McLaughlin leads the team with 265 kills, closely followed by sophomore outside hitter Charlene DeHoog who has 236. Senior libero Leigh Stephenson is third in the Big West with 4.1 digs per set.
“[They] realize what it means to defend their home court and have some pride,” Gregory said. “They know what they need to do. We’ve only got five games left, we have to go out and fight, you know?”
Tomorrow’s match is the Guacho’s first of a three-match homestand. Their next match will be on Oct. 13 against Cal Poly at 7 p.m.