The UCSB women’s volleyball team persevered on the road Saturday night, surviving a late comeback by Cal Poly to beat the Mustangs 3-2.
Santa Barbara (10-8 overall, 4-1 Big West) went into Cal Poly on a mission and set the tempo early. UCSB took the first two sets from the Mustangs (14-5, 4-2), both by a final score of 25-23.
“Winning those first two games gave us some great confidence going forward for the rest of the match,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said.
Vargas set the tone for the Gauchos early in the first set, dishing out 11 assists to go along with two kills. UCSB pulled ahead at 22-18 and got the win, 25-23 on a Cal Poly hitting error.
Tied at 23 in the second frame, the Gauchos took the lead after a kill by freshman outside hitter Kara Sherrard. UCSB went on to win the set 25-23 on another Mustang error, one of 21 on the night.
In what was a competitive match throughout, Cal Poly knotted the score at two sets apiece after taking the third set 25-21 and the fourth set 25-22. Determined not to let the match slip through its fingers, UCSB came out in the final frame determined and ready.
“We learned a lot about our team,” Gregory said. “When faced with adversity, we have been able to dig deep and fight through it.”
UCSB trailed early in the set at 3-6, but tied it up at 7-7 after consecutive kills from senior middle blocker Kasey Kipp. Santa Barbara, fueled by four Sherrard kills, stormed ahead to take the set 15-10. The Gauchos are now 5-0 in matches decided in five sets.
“To win in five sets, we have to be mentally strong and physically conditioned,” Vargas said. “Our success in the fifth game is really a testament to our work ethic.”
Vargas continued to lead the Gauchos all night, collecting a career high 63 assists. Five different players recorded double-digit kills for UCSB, led by junior middle blocker Stacey Schmidt with 17 and Sherrard, who had 16 kills and 14 digs. Senior outside hitter Charlene DeHoog also posted a double-double of her own with 12 kills and 12 digs, and middle blockers Kipp and junior Lily Lopez each added 11 kills apiece to the stat sheet.
“We have so many different players that can score points, which puts more pressure on the defense,” DeHoog said. “When the other team doesn’t know where the ball is going, it allows our offense to spread out and we have more opportunities to score.”
UCSB will finish off a four-game road trip this weekend when it travels to Pacific and UC Davis, both conference opponents.
“We have put ourselves in a great position going forward,” Vargas said. “It is a long season and we just have to take it one game at a time to reach our ultimate goal of winning the Big West Conference Championship.”