UCSB women’s volleyball concluded a five-week road trip over the weekend with matches at CSU Northridge on Friday and at UC Irvine on Saturday. The Gauchos opened the Big West portion of their schedule 2-0, beating Northridge 3-2, and Irvine 3-0 to improve to 8-6 overall.

UCSB opened their first game on fire, at one point enjoying a 20-10 lead over Irvine. They eventually took the game 25-16. Things were not as easy in the next game, however.

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Junior libero Chelsey Lowe sets up for a serve against UC Irvine

“In the second game, we began to make a lot of unforced errors,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said.

The squad managed to pull out a 28-26 win in that game, but their woes did not leave them. They dropped the third game 25-19, and according to Gregory, completely lost their focus in that game.

“Sometimes it’s bad to go up 2-0,” Gregory said. “You start to have no fear and you relax.”

Despite the errors, the Gauchos had a chance to end the match in the fourth game, leading 12-8 at one point. However, three consecutive serving errors allowed the Matadors back into the game, and they managed to eke out 26-24 win over UCSB.

If they wanted the win, the Gauchos needed to come out strong in the fifth game. Playing as if the previous two games had not happened, UCSB never trailed in the final game, cruising to a 15-10 win to take the match 3-2. Junior Stacey Schmidt scored the final point on her career-high 23rd kill of the game.

“I said [to the team], ‘You know what? We made some dumb mistakes. We just need to get our focus back and stop giving them points,’” Gregory said. “Stacey is our biggest offensive threat. She’s hitting close to .300. She’s very versatile and is key to our game.”

The next day the team traveled to Irvine to face off with the Anteaters, who proved to be no match for Santa Barbara. The Gauchos never trailed by more than two throughout the match, and swept UCI for the first time since 2005.

“[It was nice because] we haven’t had a 3-0 sweep this season,” Gregory said. “Knowing that Irvine is a team that we competed with last year and we had to go to five [sets] with, it was very nice that we were able to play in that gym.”

Now 8-6 overall, the Gauchos will next face CSU Long Beach in their first home game since Aug. 30. According to Gregory, the fact that the Gauchos are coming home with a winning record and two Big West wins will prove to be very important as they move deeper into the conference portion of their season.

“[Getting those wins] is very important because it was on the road and those games are harder to win,” Gregory said. “We’ve been on the road for five weeks. I feel very fortunate.”

UCSB faces off against Long Beach in the Thunderdome on Friday at 7 p.m.