UCSB women’s volleyball saw its playoff chances take a significant hit at the Thunderdome Saturday night when the Gauchos fell to Cal Poly 3-2.

[media-credit id=16616 align=”alignleft” width=”145″][/media-credit]“I give Cal Poly credit,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “It was a hard-fought match. We had a chance to win it at the end, and that’s really all you can ask for.”

With the loss, Santa Barbara (14-12 overall, 8-5 Big West) drops to fourth place in the Big West, falling behind third place Cal Poly (19-7, 9-4). The Gauchos remain three games behind first place Cal State Fullerton and two games behind second place Long Beach State with three matches remaining in league play.

“We prepared so well for this team and we knew we were capable of playing this well,” Cal Poly Head Coach Jon Stevenson said. “In those last two sets, it finally came together for us, and we were able to pull out a good win.”

UCSB never trailed in the first set, beating the Mustangs 25-19. Cal Poly went on a run to cut the deficit to 16-14 but the Gauchos persevered behind junior middle blocker Lily Lopez, who led Santa Barbara with five kills on six attacks in the set.

In a tight second set, UCSB found itself down 19-21 late in the frame before running off four straight points to take the lead 23-21. With a chance to close out the set and take a commanding 2-0 lead, the Gauchos failed to capitalize. Cal Poly went on to win five of the next six points behind three Santa Barbara attack errors.

“We had a great opportunity there to go ahead 2-0, but we just couldn’t take advantage of it and that ended up hurting us,” Gregory said.

The Gauchos were determined not to drop the third set, overcoming seven tie scores and four lead changes before UCSB pulled away late to take the set 25-20.

Ahead 2-1 heading into the fourth frame, it seemed as if UCSB was in command of the match. Cal Poly, though, raced out to a 7-3 lead and never looked back. The squad hit at a .333 clip and proved to be too much for the Gauchos to handle, winning 25-17.

“We needed a little more of a team effort at the same time,” senior setter Dana Vargas said. “At some important points in the match we just backed down and we can’t do that against any team in such a competitive [Big West] conference.”

In the final fifth set, the Mustangs’ good fortune continued as they hit .381 and kept their momentum from the previous set. UCSB trailed the entire set before ultimately losing to Cal Poly 10-15.

“We were a little out of sync in those last two sets,” freshman libero Kelly Heenan said. “We weren’t as consistent as we normally are, and couldn’t close it out.”

Santa Barbara — not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention — has three matches over the final two weeks of the season. Next up for the Gauchos are consecutive home matches next weekend against UC Davis and Pacific.

“I am confident that we will bounce back next weekend,” Vargas said. “We are going to learn from our mistakes and then put this match behind us. Our goal is to take the remainder of the season one game at a time and end on a strong note.”