With only four games to play and a 6-6 record in the Big West, the sixth place UCSB women’s volleyball team has all but abandoned hope of making the NCAA tournament.
That said, conference rival Cal Poly (13-10 overall) will visit the Thunderdome tomorrow night at 7 p.m, giving the Gauchos (10-13 overall) a chance to avenge their three-set loss in San Luis Obispo – and the opportunity to ruin the Mustang’s tournament hopes.
“If we’re not going to the NCAAs, then we don’t want other teams going to the NCAAs,” sophomore setter Dana Vargas said. “If we beat them, we can definitely spoil their chances.”
The same goes for UC Irvine (14-11 overall), who plays UCSB at the Thunderdome on Saturday. UC Irvine and Cal Poly are in second and third place in the Big West, respectively. According to Gaucho Head Coach Kathy Gregory, the top three teams typically make the tournament. However, the Mustangs and the Anteaters have sustained significant conference upsets to 8-5 Pacific. UC Irvine also lost to fifth place Cal State Fullerton (14-14 overall), while Cal Poly lost to 4-9 UC Davis (12-14 overall), who the Gauchos have beaten twice this season.
“With the losses that [UC Irvine and Cal Poly] have, I’m pretty sure we’ll be taking them out if we win,” Vargas said.
UC Irvine has hit a .239 clip on the season, only trailing Long Beach in the Big West. They average 13 assists per set, leading all teams in the conference. Cal Poly leads the league in blocks with 2.63 per set, but the team has lost three matches in a row, including a rare home loss in five sets to Long Beach State. The Gauchos are second behind Cal Poly in services aces, hitting 1.35 per set.
“Cal Poly out-hit, out-blocked and out-dug [Long Beach] and still lost,” Gregory said, “and Pacific has a losing [overall] record and still ending up in fourth. Nobody is much better than anybody in this conference.”
Senior outside hitter Lauren McLaughlin is sixth in the Big West in kills with 3.43 kills per set. Gaucho team captain and libero Leigh Stephenson has the second most digs in the conference with 4.26 per set. Sophomore middle blocker Kasey Kipp ranks third in the conference for digs, with 1.11 per set.
“Right now, we’re looking to finish in the top five, to make an improvement and beat some good teams,” Gregory said. “We’ve already won six games. We need to win a couple more and have a winning record in the league.”
The Gauchos will play the Anteaters again in Irvine on Nov. 21. Their last match of the season will be against UC Riverside at the Thunderdome on Nov. 22.