In the fifth set of Friday’s women’s volleyball match between UC Irvine and UCSB, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins took over.
Ruddins sent the crowd into a flurry by recording nine of her 32 total kills in the fifth set en route to the Gauchos upset victory over the Anteaters. The matches final results were 25-22, 25-18, 21-25,23-15, and 15-8.
The win results in Santa Barbara improving to 7-17 overall, but back to an even 6-6 mark in Big West play. It is now winners in three of its last five matches.
For UCI, the loss drops them to 21-5 on the year, and, worse, drops them to 9-4 in the conference making it that much harder for them to catch 12-2 Hawaii and unbeaten Cal Poly.
To no one’s surprise, however, Ruddins was the key cog in the UCSB ignition that pushed the team forward to victory.
The Gauchos started the first set on fire, backed by the defensive play of junior defensive specialist Emilia Petrachi. On the first point, Petrachi’s dig led to a kill by Ruddins, a trend that would be continued throughout the night.
UCSB jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, but Irvine battled back, tying the set at nine. UCSB maintained the lead for a majority of the set, but following a five-point run, Irvine was able to cut the deficit to 18-17.
Following a timeout by fifth-year Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch, the Gauchos were able to recover their momentum, as freshman middle blocker Nicole Omwanghe spiked the ball straight down. UCSB would never look back, and Ruddins hit from the outside ultimately sealed the set for the Gauchos.
The second set similarly featured a strong start by the Gauchos, and after an ace by junior setter Lexi Rottman the team jumped out to a 4-1 lead.
“We always want to emphasize quick starts,” Lantagne said. “We really wanted to go to the match and not let it come to us. Sometimes as a younger team we wait for a little, and tonight we wanted to go out there and put our best game on the floor.”
UCSB truly captured the momentum of the set when Rottman stretched out and pancaked the ball, and as the crowd cheered Ruddins recorded a kill to give UCSB a 15-11 lead, a lead they would never relinquish as they jumped out to a 2-0 set advantage.
But in the third set, UCSB failed to follow their formula for success from the previous two sets, falling behind early and never fully recovering. While it was able to tie the score twice, it never gained the lead during the set, and Irvine was able to extend the match.
The fourth set featured much of the same, as the Gauchos fell behind 5-1 in the beginning of the set. UCSB continued to battle in the set, and after two missed serves from Irvine and an ace by Rottman, Santa Barbara took a 16-15 lead.
UCSB continued to battle for the rest of the set, but missed serves and hits ultimately doomed the Gauchos. Despite a late four-point rally to pull the score to 24-23, Irvine spiked the ball to generate a fifth, deciding the set.
“Overall we were playing good volleyball [during those sets], they were just able to go off on runs,”Lantagne said. “ We were winning the other parts of the game, we just needed to manage that better, side out more efficiently, and focus on our execution.”
The first point in the fifth set, Ruddins slammed the ball straight down, and the team channeled that momentum throughout the rest of the set. Three consecutive kills by Ruddins gave the team an early 5-1 lead in the set.
But perhaps Ruddins most impressive point occurred after a short run by Irvine made the score 13-8. Adjusting to a serve that was pushed too far to the left, Ruddins faded to the left and was able to spike the ball down, deftly avoiding the net as she came down. Sophomore middle blocker Charlie Robinson clinched the victory with a solo block on the next point.
“We got a spark with that early run in the fifth set, and we were able to get [Ruddings] some good looks,” Lantagne said. “Once we got going, the chemistry and confidence were infectious.”
Friday was Ruddins second-career 30 kill effort, following the 36 kills she tallied on August 26th against Florida State. In total, Ruddins had a 37.5 percent conversion rate on her hits.
The Gauchos will look to build on Friday’s victory when they take on UC Davis at home Saturday for senior night. Both teams are currently tied for fourth place in the Big West conference.