Leonard Paulasa / The Daily Nexus

The UC Santa Barbara women’s volleyball team fell to Cal Poly this past Saturday and now find themselves at third place in the Big West.

This is the first time all season that UCSB has lost two straight games.

Cal Poly dominated the match, winning each set by at least six points and at most 12. The Mustangs were on fire with a .391 hitting percentage whilst holding the Gauchos to a measly .139.

Lindsey Ruddins hit just .050 for six kills while Tallulah Froley led the team with nine.

Mustang Maia Dvoracek had herself another solid but unspectacular night, hitting for a game-leading 13 kills and adding eight digs. It was senior outside hitter Jessica McRoskey’s performance that shined the brightest, however, as she cruised to 11 kills thanks to a phenomenal .714 kill percentage while also committing just a single error.

The Mustangs did more than just finish though as they ended the night with significant advantages over the Gauchos in service aces (6-0), blocks (3-1) and digs (34-28). It wasn’t just Dvoracek and McRoskey that provided the firepower either, as five Mustangs finished the night with at least six kills, as opposed to the Gauchos’ two. 

In all honesty, there wasn’t a whole lot of bright spots for UCSB as Cal Poly was seemingly a step ahead of them in every facet of the game. 

One could argue that Olivia Lovenberg and Romoni Vivao, who posted 13 and 10 assists respectively, showed up and played their parts, but the fact of the matter is that the performance put on at the Mott Athletics Center is just unacceptable for a team vying for championship glory.

It was two weeks ago when I argued UC Riverside would pose the bigger threat to UCSB as they were preparing for a two-game road trip against both UC Davis and Riverside, because there’s something different about playing the spectrum ends when you’re smack-dab in the middle of attempting to claim the elusive title of elite. 

You see, the Gauchos were 17-2 coming off of two games in which they saw their 13-game win streak shut down at the hands of Hawai’i, only to then vigorously stampede the Mustangs to a 3-1 victory that surely made every Gaucho fan think, “This is the year.” 

Because when you’re an elite team, you don’t go home sulking over a lost win streak. You go home and learn. You learn from the performance, and you get right back to training.

The schedule now reads UC Davis and UC Riverside with just a day in between. Davis was 3-5 in their previous eight games, including a loss to UCSB, and was looking to continue their push for respect, considering there was and is a significant gap between them and the Cerberus that is Hawai’i, Cal Poly and UCSB. 

Now, while Davis must have been looking to taste that sweet revenge, there’s nothing more revealing of a top team than a loss to the bottom feeders. Being elite means there can’t be losses to last-place teams, and that there must be wins not against other top teams, but in big games. 

Back-to-back sweeps that weekend didn’t reveal much, but the Gauchos did what they were supposed to do. A 3-1 win over Long Beach State meant the Gauchos were rolling again at the right time with Hawai’i and Cal Poly next on the calendar yet again. 

Two big games. In fact, considering the hit UCSB’s championship hopes would take in the event of just a single loss, these were two very big games. 

And they were two very bad losses. A solid performance at Hawai’i was capped by an absolute collapse of a final set that allowed the Rainbow Wahine to move into first place, while Mustang Madness was clearly scheduled at the Mott. The Gauchos now find themselves at third place with just four games left. 

UCSB will need to win out if they are to keep their hopes of glory alive. Time will tell who these Gauchos really are, but for now, we will have to steer clear of that elusive elite. 

UCSB will hit the road for back-to-back matches against both Long Beach State and CSUN this weekend.