The UCSB women’s volleyball split its pair of weekend games, beating #21 Long Beach State in five sets on Friday before being swept by Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.
“Overall it was a pretty good weekend,” senior setter Dana Vargas said. “We would have liked to come away 2-0 and we know we were capable of winning both games, but we have things to improve on now going forward.”
A night after the Gauchos improbably came back from a 2-0 deficit to beach Long Beach State, Santa Barbara suffered a bit of a hangover. Fullerton came into the Thunderdome and shut out UCSB 3-0, handing the Gauchos their first league loss and ending their three-game winning streak.
“We just didn’t bring it tonight,” head coach Kathy Gregory said. “We didn’t come with the intensity and focus necessary to beat a good team like Fullerton.”
Santa Barbara (9-7 Overall, 3-1 Big West) was never able to get a rhythm going and had trouble maintaining ball possession. Fullerton (13-4, 2-1), who had also won a five-set match of its own against Cal Poly on Friday, dominated the match defensively, holding the Gauchos to a .175 hitting percentage while taking a 65-49 advantage in digs.
“We had a great opportunity tonight and we didn’t show up,” Vargas said. “They out-played us in all facets of the game.”
With Fullerton ahead most of the match, UCSB was forced to play catch-up. The team was able to mount several runs, but could never complete the comeback, falling in straight sets by scores of 21-25, 19-25, 23-25. Not a single Gaucho managed to post double-digit kills for the first time this season.
“Everything seemed difficult for us tonight,” Gregory said. “Our ball control was uncharacteristically bad and we couldn’t really get anything going.”
Before Friday night’s match, Gregory was revealed as the latest “Legend of the Dome.” The comeback and victory for UCSB over Long Beach (11-4, 1-2) only reinforced what Gregory has meant to the UCSB women’s volleyball program — and the sport of volleyball.
“It was one of the most special nights of my career,” Gregory said. “To be able to come back and beat an opponent like that … it will be a match I will remember forever.”
Already only the third woman member of the Volleyball Hall of Fame, Gregory is only the fifth coach to amass over 800 wins and 12,000 games. Gregory is five-time Women’s Beach Volleyball Tournament Player of the Year, a seven-time Big West Coach of the Year, a four-time AVCA West Region Coach of the Year, and was named the NCAA National Coach of the Year in 1993.
After losing the first set to Long Beach 33-31 in extra points, Santa Barbara then dropped the second set, 25-16. Throughout the first two frames, the Gauchos were dominated by Long Beach, held to a .196 hitting percentage in the first set and a -.056 percentage in the second.
UCSB hit .353 in the third set to take down the 49ers. Up 21-19 late, the Gauchos went on a four-point run highlighted by two kills by senior outside hitter to extend the match.
“In the locker room we decided to pick up our game and attitude,” DeHoog said. “We were determined to steal the momentum from Long Beach and run with it.”
The fourth set completely belonged to the Gauchos. Led by a dominating defensive performance, Santa Barbara took the set 25-21. UCSB limited Long Beach to just a .057 hitting percentage and posted three blocks in the frame.
With all the momentum in the world behind them, UCSB dominated early in the final set. Down 0-2, the Gauchos ran off nine straight points — highlighted by five Schmidt kills — to take the lead. Long Beach threatened later in the shortened set to bring it within three at 14-11, but UCSB regrouped after a time out and completed the comeback, taking the set 15-11.
“We were pretty confident,” DeHoog said. “We have yet to lose a five-game match this year, so we were just looking to play our game and ride out the momentum we had.”
DeHoog led the Gauchos with 17 kills and 15 digs. Freshman outside hitter Kara Sherrard added a double-double with a career best 15 kills and 10 digs, while Schmidt posted 14 kills and a career-high four solo blocks. Vargas added 54 assists and 15 digs.
“That comeback was an unbelievable way to top off a great night,” Vargas said.
UCSB will take to the court next on Wednesday when they face Pepperdine in a non-conference road match.