Lindsey Ruddins passes a ball up the middle of the court. Dustin Harris / Daily Nexus

The Santa Barbara women’s volleyball team took a trip out east to the University of Denver where they played a set of three games in two days against stout competition in the Denver Classic. Coming into the weekend the UCSB women’s squad sported a 2-1 record and had won their last two matches coming into Friday’s game. The Gauchos ended up dropping their first two games of the weekend against Denver and Sacramento State before ultimately prevailing in their final match versus McNeese State.

UCSB dropped its opener to the Denver Pioneers in a thriller of a back-and-forth game that came down to the fifth set to determine a winner. The Gauchos were lead by Redshirt Junior Lindsey Ruddins who put up a monster statistical night with 27 kills, 12 digs, and a .386 kill percentage. She also found some support in teammates Olivia Lovenberg and Emilia Petrachi, who tallied 55 assists and 20 digs, respectively. This was a competitive match that saw each team alternate winning sets and Denver barely eked it out at the end, winning the fifth and final set 25-23.

Saturday’s slate of games for the Gauchos featured matches against McNeese State and Sacramento State, in a difficult doubleheader following Friday night’s grueling five-set match. The day began with an exciting match against the Sacramento State Hornets, and even though the Gauchos suffered a three sets to none loss, each set was decided by two points as the two squads battled back and forth for the entire game. Lindsey Ruddins again lead the way with 15 kills and 14 digs, Olivia Lovenberg added 40 assists, and Charlie Robinson also added 11 kills to help the Gauchos keep it competitive. The three sets played in this match all featured come-from-behind efforts by both teams, however Sac State managed to pull out the win in all three sets in order to complete the sweep.

The second match of the Saturday doubleheader featured the Gauchos going up against the McNeese State Cowgirls. After dropping the previous two matches in the Denver Classic, the Gauchos came out against McNeese State and earned a decisive win hinging on a great team defensive performance. UCSB won the first two sets by scores of 25-19 and 25-14, dropped the third set narrowly by a 25-22 margin, but recovered to clinch the win in the fourth set with a score of 25-17. Ruddins again lead the way for the Gauchos with 18 kills and 9 digs, but big games from several other Gauchos were what provided the spark in this one. Three other Gauchos in addition to Ruddins accrued double digit kills in this one, including Megan Lewis with 10, Nicole Omwanghe with 11, and Torre Glasker with 12. Freshman Olivia Lovenberg also had another great outing as she came up one assist shy of her season high with 54 assists. A win such as this one is important to get some confidence back for the team after two tough losses and it could prove to push the team in the right direction.

The next time the Gauchos will take the floor will be back in the friendly confines of the Thunderdome against Texas Tech on Friday, September 7th at 6pm. This will be one of three games played as part of the Thunderdome Classic next weekend.