It’s becoming almost too easy for the UCSB women’s volleyball team, which defeated Cal Poly 3-0 this past weekend to improve its winning streak to eight matches.
The Gauchos have now won their last 11 sets to help them improve to a 13-8 overall, 8-1 conference record, and are on their longest win-streak since 2005. After losing to UCSB for the second time this season, the Mustangs now find themselves in the bottom half of the conference at 10-12, 4-5.
“We’ve improved a lot as a team and figured out what our strongest lineup is,” Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “Players have gotten more comfortable and improved week in and week out, and we’ve done a really nice job of following our opponent’s gameplan and making adjustments as needed.”
In a tightly contested first set in which neither team could pull away, a kill from Cal Poly’s senior outside hitter Megan McConnell tied the score at 20-20. However, the Gauchos answered back with a kill from freshman outside hitter Ali Spindt, beginning a run of five straight points which gave them a 25-20 win.
The Gauchos went on to dominate the second set with their defense. Behind a strong middle which out-blocked the Mustangs 23-9, UCSB held its opponent to just a .118 hitting percentage in the second on their way to an impressive 25-12 win.
“[Cal Poly is] a kind of team that you have to block to stop,” Lantagne Welch said. “They run a very fast offense and they’re aiming for splints in the block, so we knew that we needed to be very disciplined there and fortunately for us we executed pretty well.”
Cal Poly gave the Gauchos their best effort of the night in the third set, as they went on a 6-0 run to take a 15-11 lead. Santa Barbara answered back with a 9-2 run of its own, taking advantage of four attacking errors from the Mustangs and using a balanced offensive attack.
Up 25-24 and needing just one more kill, UCSB turned to the person who has been its number one hitter all year in senior opposite Katey Thompson, and she delivered. Off a pass from sophomore setter Hanna Nielson, Thompson picked up her eighth and final kill to seal the Gauchos’ third straight sweep.
The UCSB defense saw three players record five block assists, and was once again led in the middle by Grunt who had two solo blocks of her own. Senior Leah Sully made the start at libero for the ninth straight match, recording a team-high 14 digs.
“Leah’s an incredible libero for us. We’ve played really well as a team when she’s in that role,” Lantagne Welch said. “Spindt and Barbeau have really picked up their game as the season’s gone on, and we’re getting a lot of kills from our pins.”
Barbeau led the team in kills for the second straight match with 16, going for a .289 hitting percentage on the night, while Spindt added 7 kills and 13 digs of her own.
Despite the streak, the Gauchos still find themselves one win back from Cal State Northridge (19-4, 9-1) in the standings.
UCSB returns home for a 6:30 p.m. match against Hawaii on Saturday.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of November 4, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.