Stephen Manga / Daily Nexus

On Friday night the UCSB Gauchos took on the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine in an arduous five-set match that ultimately finished with Hawai’i as the victor. With the loss, UCSB falls to 12-7 overall, and 4-3 in the Big West, while Hawai’i improves to 9-6 overall and 5-1 in conference play.

Redshirt junior Lindsey Ruddins again led the way for Santa Barbara as she finished with 16 kills and 11 digs and sophomore Rowan Ennis followed that up with 12 kills and 4 digs of her own.

Junior outside hitter Torre Glasker was another key contributor in Friday’s match as she totaled 5 kills and 13 digs of her own to add to the cause. Freshmen Olivia Lovenberg and Zoe Fleck also tallied 9 digs apiece in the loss.

The low hitting percentage by UCSB (.081) and Hawai’i (.138) shows the important role defense played in the outcome of this one. The defensive tone for the match was set by the senior libero Emilia Petrachi as she totaled a game-high 29 digs that proved to be massively important in such a tight match.

Hawaii was able to match the defensive output of UCSB with the help of Tita Akiu’s 26 digs and McKenna Granato’s 16 kills and 14 digs. Those two senior leaders for Hawai’i made the most noise on the floor for the Rainbow Wahine as their efforts were barely enough to scrape by the pesky Gauchos in five sets.

The game got off to a rough start for both squads as there were 22 combined errors in the first set, and the teams jostled for the lead throughout the game until UCSB managed to pull away late to take the first victory by a score of 25-19.

The second set was not as tightly contested as Hawai’i got off to an early lead and held on to win 25-14 and even the series to one game apiece.

The third set was controlled early by the Gauchos as they held as much as a six point lead and were looking to pull away from Hawaii. But then a trio of service and attack errors by UCSB let visiting Hawai’i get right back into the game. The third set was tightly contested as each team alternated leads until the Rainbow Wahine scored the final five points of the set to give themselves a 2-1 lead in the series.

After a devastating loss in the third set the Gauchos could have laid down and accepted defeat from a superior team, but they instead bounced back in the fourth set and handily defeated Hawaii 25-19. This win ensured a decisive fifth set to 15 points to determine who would leave victorious.

The experienced Rainbow Wahine proved too much in the deciding set, however, as they jumped out to an early 8-2 lead and never looked back, finishing off the Gauchos 15-10 in the fifth set.

Every loss hurts but many positives can be taken from this match moving forward and coach Lantagne Welch’s squad definitely proved that they can compete with the top dogs in the Big West.