The UCSB women’s volleyball team headed into a road game against No. 3 Hawaii with loads of confidence and the belief that they could compete with any team in the country. After a 3-2 win over the Rainbow Wahine this past Friday, the Gauchos proved that their confidence was more than justified.
The win gives Santa Barbara an 8-8 overall record, but a three-game winning streak has put them in third place in the Big West with a 3-1 conference record. Hawaii, losers for the first time in their last 15 games, falls to second place in the Big West at 5-1 and is now 16-2 overall.
For the Gauchos, it was their first victory over Hawaii since 1994, a win that ended an impressive 41-conference match winning streak for the Rainbow Wahine.
UCSB jumped out to a quick 6-3 lead in the first set after a kill by freshman middle blocker Allie Sullberg. Down 14-8, the Rainbow Wahine put together three straight points, but that would be the only stretch in the first set where they scored on consecutive serves. The Gauchos stayed strong and eventually won the set at 25-20, after a Hawaii service error.
The second set began even better than the first for UCSB as it took advantage of several Hawaii errors on the way to a 6-1 lead. Later in the set, a kill by senior opposite Katey Thompson made it 14-6, the largest lead of the night for either team.
The Rainbow Wahine fought back, eventually making it a 21-19 game after an attacking error by Thompson. The Gauchos answered back though, by scoring four of the next five points to win the set 25-20 and take a 2-0 lead.
Santa Barbara started off the third set strong after three straight Hawaii attacking errors, including two blocks from Thompson, gave UCSB a 5-3 lead. However, plagued by service and attacking errors, UCSB found itself facing a 20-13 deficit. Senior outside hitter Emily Hartong put it away for Hawaii with a kill to win the set 25-21 and cut the Gauchos lead to 2-1.
Hartong was the only Rainbow Wahine player in double digits in kills on from the night with 20.
Hawaii took its momentum into the fourth set as they took an early 7-2 lead. Both teams traded runs throughout, but the Rainbow Wahine ended up prevailing 25-22 after a second straight set-winning kill by Hartong.
Despite losing the previous two sets, UCSB did not lose its composure. Tied 10-10, a kill by freshman middle blocker Phoebe Grunt put the Gauchos up 11-10 and they did not look back. Leading 14-12, a block by Thompson and freshman outside hitter Ali Spindt sealed the 3-2 upset.
Thompson once again led the way for UCSB with 10 block assists and 19 kills, both team-highs, while Spindt added a double-double with 12 kills and 17 digs. Senior Leah Sully played excellently at libero as she contributed 22 digs, both a game high and a personal season high.
UCSB looks to continue its great stretch when it hosts Big West leader Cal State Northridge and UC Davis next weekend.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of October 14, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.