women's volleyball

Nexus File Photo

The UCSB women’s volleyball team will hit the road to face UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton after having defeated both Pepperdine and Cal State Northridge last week.

After falling behind to Pepperdine early, UCSB came together to win three straight sets in what was nothing short of a spectacular game.

CSUN also managed to win two sets, but were eventually shut down by this season’s new-look Gauchos who seem hungrier than ever.

The matchup against CSUN was the start of conference play and was also UCSB’s ninth straight victory to give them an overall record of 11-1 on the season, an outstanding feat considering last year’s team didn’t win their 11th game until the 16th game of the season and had a season-high win streak of just four games.

UCI (3-10) will host UCSB  this Friday in an attempt to right the ship before it’s too late for the Anteaters, if it isn’t already.

The Anteaters did manage to win both games against the Gauchos last season, though they saw five players graduate all while UCSB has seemingly evolved into a clinical powerhouse.

UCI is currently coming off a rough stretch of games that saw them lose four of their last five, including three sweeps by Loyola Chicago (7-6), Pepperdine (5-7), who the Gauchos of course just defeated, and most recently, Boise State (9-3).

While losses against Loyola Chicago and Boise can be expected given the loss of talent UCI has experienced, the sweep by Pepperdine highlights the stark gap in talent and experience. The Gauchos will look for their tenth straight win in this matchup.

Lindsey Ruddins posted 23 and 21 kills in each of last year’s matchups against UCI and will be looking to stay in phenomenal form. The Gauchos will be hoping to dominate this game and any expectations of less are simply asinine.

After Friday’s match against UCI, UCSB will travel to Cal State Fullerton (8-4), who have split their last six matches dating back to Sept. 12.

The Titans are led by standout freshman Julia Crawford who, in just her first season, has managed 171 kills up to this point to lead her team. She also just so happens to be second on her team with 131 digs, a ways away from junior Savahna Costello’s 259, but nevertheless a showcase of her athleticism as an outside hitter.

So while the Gauchos possess superior depth at the top end in terms of digs, the Titans will be playing Costello, whose 259 dig count clearly tops UCSB’s Zoe Fleck’s 182. The Titans’ ability to extend plays is showcased no better than by the fact that they have recorded nearly 200 more digs than the Gauchos up to this point. 

The Gauchos will have to capitalize on chances if they are to return home with a win. While Fullerton has greatly benefited from, or perhaps have been carried by, Crawford, she also leads the team in errors with 56. While Ruddins, Crawford’s opposite, also leads her team in errors, her superior hitting percentage (.250 vs .217) suggests that not only has Ruddins been far more efficient, but that pressuring Crawford may be key to winning this matchup.

On the topic of errors, freshman Gaucho Romoni Vivao has STILL not committed a single error. While she is one of two main setters for UCSB, with sophomore Olivia Lovenberg in the midst of a spectacular follow-up to her freshman year, she is simply not responsible for racking up kills. For the Titans, both Makenzi Abelman and Elizabeth Schuster have combined for 10 errors thus far, five times Lovenberg’s two.

Overall, this should be an exciting weekend for the Gauchos who will have two very different matchups that will ultimately teach us a lot about this team. After winning both of last season’s meetings with UCSB, UCI has suffered from a mass exodus of talent while the Gauchos have just simply gotten better. Cal State Fullerton, on the other hand, has had more gas pumped in the tank thanks to the arrival of freshman phenom Crawford. Their 8-4 record is respectable and for a program that’s been as strong as theirs, they’ll be looking to compete. 

UCI will host UCSB at 7:00 p.m. Friday night while Saturday’s match at Cal State Fullerton will kick off at 5:00 p.m.