The currently tied for first place UCSB women’s volleyball team puts a seven-match winning streak on the line this weekend when it travels to Cal Poly to play the rival Mustangs.
Now at 12-8 overall, 7-1 in the Big West, the Gauchos have been unstoppable in the last month, dropping just five of their last 26 sets played. The Mustangs found their footing last weekend, coming up with two wins to end a run of four straight losses and improving to 10-11 overall, 4-4 Big West.
During what has become a historic run for UCSB, senior outside hitter Leah Sully has continued to start at libero. This has opened up the scoring positions for the other players on the team, and they have performed as well as Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch could have hoped for.
Freshman outside hitter Ali Spindt has consistently put up double-digit kills all season, but sophomore outside hitter Ali Barbeau has taken control of the offense in recent matches. Last weekend, she led the entire team with 29 kills on a .424 hitting percentage in just six sets played.
Senior outside hitter Katey Thompson still remains the Gauchos’ number one offensive weapon this year though, averaging 3.53 kills per set to this point, second in the Big West.
Defensively, Sully has risen to fifth in the conference in digs per set with 3.65, despite the fact that she just recently switched to a position she’s never played before in libero.
For the Mustangs, their counter for Thompson comes in the form of senior outside hitter Chelsea Hardin who leads the team with 3.11 killers per set. Despite being the team’s number one option, Hardin has been able to keep her hitting percentage at an impressive .302, good for seventh in the conference.
The Gauchos will also have to watch out for freshman middle blocker Taylor Gruenewald, whose .314 hitting percentage is fifth best in the Big West.
Both teams put up similar numbers overall, but the Gaucho’s have a definite edge defensively, out-blocking Cal Poly 2.37 to 1.84 per set so far this season. This edge was on display in the last match between the two when UCSB out-blocked them 20-12.
Freshman middle blockers Phoebe Grunt and Allie Sullberg have controlled the middle all season, averaging 1.12 and 1.06 blocks per set, respectively. Those numbers are good for third and fifth best in the conference.
The match with Cal Poly will be played at 7 p.m. this Saturday in the Mott Athletics Center.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of October 31, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of The Daily Nexus.