The UCSB women’s volleyball team will travel to Cal Poly on Saturday to take on the Mustangs in a Big West showdown. On Wednesday, the Gauchos lost 3-1 in a nonconference match at Pepperdine.

“It was a tough loss, but our main goal is to get better heading into the bulk of league play,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said.

[media-credit name=”Jon Kopecky” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]The Mustangs (13-4 overall, 3-1 Big West) will welcome UCSB (9-8 overall, 3-1 Big West) to San Luis Obispo, where they beat the Gauchos 3-1 last year after losing in Santa Barbara. Cal Poly comes in as the #56 ranked team in the nation, behind UCSB at #51.

“We are going to have to be ready to play against another big, physical team in Cal Poly,” Gregory said. “We really have to move the offense around to avoid their blockers, and play consistently on defense.”

On Wednesday, Pepperdine pounced on the Gauchos from the get-go on its home court, opening up the first set on a 5-0 run. UCSB responded after a time-out, but lost to the Waves 15-25. The second set began similarly, with the Gauchos facing a 4-1 deficit. However, they rallied to eventually take an 11-7 lead and forced a Pepperdine time-out. Santa Barbara led the rest of the set, taking the second frame 25-20.

The third set proved to determine the match. The Gauchos jumped out to an early 7-3 lead, before Pepperdine stormed back to tie the score at 7-7. From there, the Gauchos would lead until late in the set. With the score 24-21, a UCSB service error and consecutive Pepperdine kills ensured extra points.

“Our concentration slipped a little, which allowed them to get back into the set,” freshman libero Kelly Heenan said.

Santa Barbara had three more chances to end the set but could not capitalize. Two consecutive kills by Pepperdine sophomore middle blocker Victoria Adelhelm and a UCSB service error kept the Waves in the game before they were able to persevere over the Gauchos, 31-29.

“We just couldn’t close it out,” Gregory said. “Especially against a good, physical team like Pepperdine, you can’t give them extra opportunities.”

With the momentum on their side, the Waves cruised in the fourth set to best UCSB 25-11. Senior outside hitter Charlene DeHoog led the Gauchos with 12 kills and nine digs. Senior setter Dana Vargas posted a double-double with 33 assists and 11 digs. Junior middle blocker Stacey Schmidt added 11 kills while Heenan picked up a team-high 18 digs.

With this non-conference game behind them, the Gauchos must prepare for the heart of Big West play, which begins against a familiar foe. UCSB, at 3-1, is off to its best conference start since 2005 when it started the year 8-1.

“Going forward, we need to stay consistent throughout the match,” Heenan said. “If we play our game, we should be hard to beat.”

The match between UCSB and Cal Poly will be part of the Blue-Green Rivalry between the two schools. Based on the results of the 16 common sports between the schools, the winner of the Blue-Green rivalry — whose goal is to use games to promote campus sustainability and recycling efforts — will be determined at the end of the year.

“It is always a good matchup when we face Cal Poly, and come Saturday we will be ready,” Gregory said.