The UCSB women’s volleyball team took care of business against UC Irvine on Friday night with a 3-0 win, maintaining its position in second place in the Big West. The Gauchos improve to 14-11 on the season and 7-5 in the Big West, while Irvine falls to 9-14 (3-7 Big West).
“We knew how to play them, and we knew that if we were ready on defense and if we could spread the court then we could pull it out,” freshman setter Hanna Nielson said.
UCSB was out-blocked 11-6 but won in straight sets for the first time since its last game against UC Irvine on Oct. 8.
“We have only swept teams a few times this year so it felt great to do that,” senior right side Stacey Schmidt said. “We were able to play really [consistently] at the end and limit [our] errors, which helped a lot.”
The Gauchos did not get off to a fast start, falling behind 8-2 in the first set, but quickly regrouped for an 11-10 lead with the help of three service aces by Schmidt. The Gauchos took the lead for good at 23-22, with an attack error by Irvine’s Shaina Olsen, and closed out the set with a kill by sophomore outside hitter Kara Sherrard and another Irvine attack error.
UCSB didn’t need a comeback in the second set, scoring first and maintaining the lead the whole way through. Two straight kills by sophomore outside hitter Leah Sully made it 13-9 and forced Irvine to take a timeout. However, the Gauchos only extended their lead to 19-12 with a block and a kill by senior middle blocker Lily Lopez. It was close for just a moment at 21-19, but UCSB scored four of the last six points, assisted by three Irvine attack errors.
“We knew we all had a lot of energy and if we kept doing what we were doing but made less mistakes, then we thought that we’d be able to [win the third],” Nielson, who finished with 34 assists on the night, said.
Irvine opened up a 7-3 lead in the third set, but UCSB fought back again with an 8-3 run sparked by two kills from Lopez for an 11-10 lead. The Gauchos remained ahead after that, and another kill by Lopez at match point finished off the Anteaters 25-20.
“We just wanted to really focus on closing out the game,” Schmidt said. “We never expect a sweep because our league is so good this year — any day any team can beat another, so we weren’t expecting this.”
The Gauchos will stay home this week to host Cal State Northridge on Wednesday.