The UC Santa Barbara women’s volleyball team finishes the 2019 season with an overall record of 22-5 to go along with a 12-4 showing in conference play.
UCSB finished strong with sweeps over both Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine this past weekend.
During Friday’s match against the Titans, senior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins hit .367 for 15 kills, sophomore setter Olivia Lovenberg had 23 assists and junior middle blocker Rowan Ennis played super-utility as she hit .500 for 7 kills, served up 3 aces and had 3 total blocks.
Everyone played their role and played it well, so much so that not a single Gaucho had digs in the double-digit Instead, digs were well-distributed amongst the team as six players had more than 4 digs, and three had 6 digs or more.
Basically, the Titans had no time to react to a very efficient Gauchos team. Decisions were made instantaneously and UCSB found themselves on top almost the entire way.
The Gauchos had to take the lead in sets one and three after quick starts for Fullerton, but never gave them back. The middle set was a Gauchos game from start to finish.
Highlights for Fullerton include junior right side Tyler Fezzey who shot .412 for 8 kills, junior setter Makenzi Abelman and her 23 assists and junior libero Savahna Costello, who was the only player in the game to reach 10 digs.
Ennis has been quietly consistent all season and Saturday’s match against UCI was more of the same. Her .462 hitting percentage produced 7 kills while she also added 2 assists, 2 service aces, 5 digs and 4 total blocks.
Ruddins led both teams in kills with 15, but Anteater freshmen—middle blocker Onye Ofoegbu and outside hitter Joy Umeh—kept the pressure on with 12 and 10 kills, respectively. They shot a combined .508 and forced the Gauchos to be composed.
And composed they were, committing 3 less errors en route to a 3-0 sweep that included 23 ties and 5 lead changes.
The late wins just weren’t enough as the Gauchos finished one game back of Cal Poly and two of Big West champions Hawai’i.
Losses to Hawai’i in each game and a loss at Cal Poly proved to be the most significant matches of the entire season. Victories in each of these games would have brought UCSB the real victory, the Big West Championship.
Much of the talk this season focused on how different this Gauchos team was than in recent years, that this team had become composed clinicians ready to fight with strong leads or uphill battles. Unfortunately for head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch and her squad, the very first test had no margin for error.
Coming home for a match against the Rainbow Wahine after having won their 13th straight game, Hawai’i made quick work of the Gauchos in a 3-0 sweep and holding Ruddins to just 12 kills off a .216 hitting percentage.
That just cannot happen to a team vying to stake their claim amongst the elite. They did, however, follow-up that heartbreaker with a 3-1 Blue-Green win against the Mustangs team that simply took the Gauchos too lightly.
Ruddins missed that game with an injury she sustained in training while Lovenberg and freshman setter Romoni Vivao dished out 40 assists to seal the deal on an absolutely masterful team win. Freshman right side Tallulah Froley filled in quite nicely, posting 16 kills off a .250 hitting percentage.
In the end, as fair or unfair as one might argue, a few failed tests heavily outweighed the passed ones.
This team had plenty of bright spots to appreciate, but onwards is where the ship goes and Welch will need to prepare to set course without the help of the graduating seniors—star Ruddins, outside hitters Torre Glasker and Chloe Allen and middle blocker-right side Charlie Robinson.
They will be greatly missed, but the Welch Way is to carry on, and the aforementioned would love nothing more than for her to lead this team to the promised land.