Up 2-0 and one point away from sweeping UC Riverside, the UCSB women’s volleyball team was unable to put away the Highlanders on Saturday.
“We played scared, tentative after the third game,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We should’ve put that third game away but we didn’t and that’s what happens.”
The Gauchos fell to 11-9 overall and 4-3 in the Big West where they are tied for second place, while Riverside improves to 5-16 overall and 2-5 in conference play.
In the first set, the Gauchos found themselves down 21-18 when a dig by senior libero Chelsey Lowe led to three straight points. A kill by sophomore outside hitter Leah Sully gave UCSB a 23-22 lead, its first since early in the set. The Highlanders retook the lead before senior middle blocker Lily Lopez’s kill tied it and three straight points gave them a 27-25 win.
UCSB was tied in the second set 11-11 before calling a timeout and scoring eight of the next 11 points to take control. The Gauchos ended up going on a 14-4 run to close out the set at 25-15.
“We just started being more consistent in our passing and hitting,” Lowe said. “We were able to put the ball away and we just had a lot of energy on the court.”
Santa Barbara started strong with a 4-0 lead attempting to put away the Highlanders in the third set, but Riverside fought back and took its first lead at 12-11. The Gauchos had a few shots at match point, up 24-23 and 25-24, but were unable to score, and an attacking error by senior right side Stacey Schmidt gave Riverside a 26-25 lead. The Highlanders took advantage to complete the comeback 27-25.
“We had a lot of energy [in the second set], but we need to maintain that throughout the match if we want to be successful,” sophomore middle blocker Katey Thompson said.
Riverside carried its momentum over into the fourth set and opened with a 4-1 lead that soon increased to 10-3. It maintained its seven-point lead until UCSB made a 5-1 run to make it 19-16. Then Riverside scored three straight after a timeout and went on to win 25-19, forcing a fifth set.
In the fifth set, the Gauchos were unable to take control, even with the score tied at seven. The Highlanders went on a 4-1 run and never looked back, forcing match point at 14-11. A Riverside attacking error momentarily extended the game, but then Amanda Vialpando’s kill finalized the 15-12 win.
“It couldn’t be any more disappointing, but I give them all the credit,” Gregory said. “I realize we didn’t play well enough. They were the better team tonight.”
The Gauchos’ next match is this Friday at home against Cal State Fullerton.