Lindsey Ruddins soars through the air while serving. Nexus File Photo.

After having earned her conference record-tying 11th Big West Player of the Week award, Lindsey Ruddins will look to lead the UC Santa Barbara women’s volleyball team into this week’s matchups against UC Davis and UC Riverside. 

UC Davis will almost certainly be the tougher opponent as they currently sit at 10-5 and are coming off three straight wins against San Francisco, UC Irvine and UC Riverside.

The Aggies are led by senior outside hitter Lauren Matias who has 192 kills and one less error than Ruddins. While Ruddins has been the more ferocious attacker, Matias in turn has proven to be quite a composed scorer herself. A small but not insignificant lead in hitting percentage means the edge in attack goes to Ruddins and the Gauchos. 

Sophomore outside hitter Mahalia White is currently second on the team in kills with 176, a strong lead when compared to the Gauchos’ second-leading attacker Tallulah Froley and her 135. The big difference between these teams is in their depth and UCSB junior Rowan Ennis has played her part quite well to say the least, as represented by her 26-kill advantage over Demari Webb’s 86. The Gauchos lineup will feature not only the leading scorer but a player in Ennis who has been severely underrated due to Ruddins’ phenomenal showing this year. 

While the difference in records (13-1, 10-5) suggests UCSB has clearly been the better team, the Aggies have managed to sweep their opponents six times while the Gauchos have done it five times. But taking a closer look will reveal where the difference lies, as UCSB has been far more hungry in games where they were down. 

The Aggies have been swept three times this season while the Gauchos have not once. An even closer look into the stats will show you that the Gauchos have won five games after having been down by one or two sets versus the Aggies’ one. So while the Aggies do have one more sweep to their name, they’ve been unable to climb back up when down in games. 

Looking back at last year’s matchups, the two games were split with Davis taking down Santa Barbara 3-2 while the Gauchos made amends with a 3-1 victory later in the season, yet another example of the Aggies’ inability to fight from the bottom. 

An upperhand in scoring and scoring depth, hitting percentage, digs and track record all suggest the Gauchos should come out victorious; however, anticipating an easy win would be foolish. 

The Gauchos will stay in Santa Barbara where they will host UC Riverside on Saturday, a team that has expectedly stumbled out the gate after a disappointing 4-14 finish in conference last year as well as a 9-19 record overall. 

UCSB currently has the upperhand in kills, errors, assists, hitting percentage, service errors, reception errors, digs, every blocks category and total points. Throw in the records and UCSB is the clear favorite in this matchup. They’ve just been a much better team. 

The Gauchos came out on top in both matchups last year including a 3-0 sweep in the latter parts of the season. 

The highlight of the Highlanders this season has been freshman Amarachi Osuji whose arrival has translated to a team-leading 144 kills and a fourth-place standing in digs with 90. With two less errors than Ruddins and a measly .183 hitting percentage, she has proven to be an extremely talented player with perhaps too much weight on her shoulders. Don’t expect her to steamroll this stout Gaucho defense, but don’t be surprised when she shows up ready to win. 

The Gauchos will host UC Davis this Friday at 7 p.m. while Saturday’s game against UC Riverside will kickoff at 5 p.m., both right here at the Thunderdome.