September 2, 2011

The Lau Down

 

Women's volleyball player Erica Lau, a junior, will keep Gaucho fans updated all season long through her blog, The Lau Down.

DECEMBER 1

Okay, I am sorry that it has taken so long for me to post again, but as you can imagine, I have been insanely busy with end-of-the-quarter crunch time, and after a Final paper and Final Exam, I have finally found the time to write, so here goes.

Unfortunately, as you all know, the 2011 UCSB Women's Volleyball season has officially come to a close. Even after an amazing 7-match winning streak, the NCAA committee couldn't look past some of our tough losses throughout the year, and we were denied an at-large bid to the tournament.

After an amazing senior night, we knew that we had to hunker down and win the rest of our matches in order to have a hope at making the playoffs. We knew this was going to be tough, especially since we were on the road, but we had nothing to lose, only something to gain! We trained hard for our matches against Northridge and Riverside, and walked away from those with two victories… two steps closer to our goal, only two more to go. 

The next week was Thanksgiving week, and we (thank you KG!) got to go home to our families and celebrate. We had to be at the hotel in San Diego that night to get ready for our Turkey-Tournament against SDSU and TCU. It has been said that turkey is supposed to make you tired, but you sure wouldn't be able to tell watching us play the next night against SDSU! We were nervous, and we knew how much was on the line, but that made us want it even more. We were able to beat SDSU in their rowdy home gym in four games with one of the "best comebacks" that Kathy has ever seen… one step closer!

The next night we had to face off against TCU. It was insane to think that there was only one team and one match between us and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. As we approached the match, we were ready; we felt good; we felt like we could leave it all out there on the court, with no regrets. Unfortunately, TCU must have felt the same way, because they never let down. They played with a level of confidence that we couldn't match. We didn't play poorly and we played with all our heart, never letting down, but they just played better. It wasn't our match to win from the beginning.

While we were extremely upset, we couldn't help but to be proud of the year that we had had. We had exceeded all expectations and put up a great fight. I know that the rest of the team and I really wanted to win this for our seniors, more than anything. But now its time to take finals, pass all our classes, rest over break, and then start up again in January, training for the new year!

KG Quote of the Week: "Leah I know what you're thinking… I know because I can read your mind!"

 

I want to thank everyone for reading this blog; I truly enjoyed writing about our incredible season, and I am going to miss it. Because of the A+ entry last time, written by my "celebrity blogger" Katey Thompson, KT will be taking over the blog next year. "Talking with Thompson," anyone? Over and Out! GO GAUCHOS!!!

NOVEMBER 18

Hey errrbody!

It's Katey Thompson and Lily Lopez and we are stepping in as celebrity bloggers for Erica Lau. We started off this week with a couple tough practices since we knew we have been tied for second place in Big West and wanted to prove that we are a force to be reckoned with. With Kathy talking up the opposing team, like she always does, we were definitely more prepared than initially necessary which helped lead us to the sweeping of Northridge in 3 games straight. Because we played so well the night before, we got Thursday off, an occurrence that only happens once every blue moon. On Friday, as a team, we all attended the first home UCSB men's basketball game, regardless of season coming quickly to an end, we continue try to team bond as much as possible.

As most of you know, Saturday was our big Senior Night, and our last season home game, against our rivals the Cal Poly Mustangs. The day began with a different mind set, especially since Dan led the lineup instead of Kathy, as Dan did his best to imitate the deep powerful howl of Kathy Gregory, we stood there laughing at him which produced tons of energy for that morning practice.

It has always been tradition to decorate the locker room for the seniors, so this year Erica and I went to town on getting everything together. It seriously looked like someone was having a birthday because of all of the signs and streamers thrown across the room. In addition to the embarrassing baby poster of each senior put in their own separate lockers, I mean what type of teammates would we be if we didn't embarrass them?

Back to the game, though. The mixed emotions from that night created an atmosphere different from any of our past home games, all the seniors were in tears (while I was completely bawling because I'm going miss these kids like no other) yet they still had the burning fight within them to pummel the Mustangs. We took it to them in three straight games and made sure they knew who they were dealing with and that the past time they beat us in five was a fluke.

After the adrenaline stopped pumping through our veins we all gathered in the Founder's Room (which was completely awesome, thanks Kathy and everyone for doing a great job putting it together) to celebrate our three seniors. One of the best aspects about being a senior is that Kathy reads a letter to each senior about their four or, in Stacey's case, five years at Santa Barbara. After this segment we played a tribute video to the seniors where almost every player made a verbal contribution. Jenna stood out the most to me in this video because it seemed like she was in it every two seconds awkwardly laughing and making a comment about the seniors, (with that type of personality it baffles me why Kathy refers to her as "Whisper" or "Feather").

Overall this past week was the best week we have had all year. Kathy was in the best mood, we killed Northridge and Cal Poly in three, and celebrated our hard working seniors! I just wanted to say you guys are awesome and that you successfully made it through the UCSB Women's Volleyball program and survived Kathy Gregory! Thanks for following, you guys are the best!

NOVEMBER 8

This entry is probably going to be a short one, considering we only played one match last week. So here goes.

All week last week we prepared for a match that was extremely important to us … IRVINE. We love to play them, mostly because we love to beat them! Practices were specified to aspects of the game that we most needed to work on. And as Friday rolled around, we were ready to face off against the Anteaters.

And I'm happy to say that the match was short and sweet! We played steady, and were able to come out with a sweep (twice this season, must I add). It was a great way to keep our confidence alive before another big week at home, senior week!

It is crazy to us that we are approaching our last two home games. Our three seniors will be playing their last home game against UCSB's biggest rivals, the Cal Poly SLO Mustangs. Come out and show some support!

Wednesday vs. Northridge and Saturday Senior Night vs. Cal Poly. Wish us luck! Over and out, GO GAUCHOS!

NOVEMBER 1

Sorry for the delay, but it was midterms week, and I had minimal time for blogging. But I'm back and ready to describe our previous two weekends of conference play. Over the course of the weekends, we went 2-2, beating Fullerton and Pacific, but losing to Long Beach and Davis.

After tough loses to Cal Poly and Riverside, we rallied and got ready for one of the biggest weekends yet – home games against Fullerton and Long Beach. We re-focused and prepared ourselves, both mentally and physically for the match against Fullerton. As we practiced and became students of the game, there was one word on our minds. Revenge.

 

 

And that's exactly what we got. We beat Fullerton in 4 games, and even after we lost a game, we were as confident and steady as ever. One of our coaches told us that we are "unbeatable when we play that consistent." Out of excitement, Katey and I treated ourselves to delicious (and healthy, of course) burritos for dinner, and chuckled when the Fullerton bus pulled up, and all the girls got out to get themselves dinner, looking hilariously somber. I guarantee that our burritos were WAY more satisfying then theirs!

The next night we played Long Beach. While we didn't play poorly, they just played better then us, and they beat us in four games. For us, that was one of the most disappointing loses. We started to lose a little confidence in ourselves. But we also knew that there was nothing we could do about it, and we had to shake off the past, learn from our mistakes, and, once again, prepare for the next weekend.

Practice during the following week wasn't too physically draining (as everyone had midterms and many girls were sick), but we worked hard on specific parts of our game that needed attention. Thursday morning we left for our LONG drive up north to Davis and Pacific, and we got there just in time to go to Buckhorns for dinner and try their well-known tri-tip sandwiches. 

The next night, we play Davis, who is undefeated at home. We started out so strong that it was almost too good to be true. After we won game one, things started to go downhill fast, and we ended up losing game two, three, and four. We were upset, mostly because we had multiple chances to win the match, but we weren't embarrassed. We had played well, but once again, the other team played better.

After the match we got back on the bus and went down to Pacific, where we were well rested before our game on Saturday night. The game against the Tigers must have been a fun one to watch. We went back and forth the whole match, and ended up winning a very close fifth game. We had our confidence back, and Kathy was enthused… what more could we ask for?! 

We immediately got back on the bus and drove back home, arriving in Santa Barbara at 4am. Kathy's comments to the "14 year old" college students in Halloween costumes made the trip well worth it.

 

 

Next weekend we face off against Irvine at home, wish us luck! Over and out, GO GAUCHOS! 

 

OCTOBER 18

This week was not, I repeat NOT, a successful week. We lost two heartbreaking matches to Cal Poly and Riverside. I'll give my personal breakdown throughout this entry, but all in all, the best we can do is learn from the week and the only direction to go is up.

Wednesday afternoon we headed to Cal Poly to play the Mustangs in their home gym. We stopped at Big Sky (an amazing local restaurant) for lunch, and then headed to the gym, ironically named The Asylum. While we were confident and ready to play, at the same time we were very nervous because we know how tough it is to play in their gym. The prideful fans and loud band give them an undeniable home-court advantage. And to make matters worse for ourselves, we played some of our most inconsistent volleyball yet. It was like a rollercoaster: in the games we played well, we won, and in the games we played poorly, we lost by 10 points. Obviously, we did everything in our power to win the match, but to no avail. Instead we lost 13-15 in the fifth, and our heads were hanging low for the rest of the night. The only thing we could do at that point was learn from our mistakes and focus on our next match.

One thing that we had to look forward to was the unveiling of our newest "Legend of the Dome," Judy Bellomo. Judy was one of Kathy's players during the late 80's who's drive, competitiveness, attitude, and passion remain unmatched. Unfortunately she died unexpectedly at the early age of 23. Her entire family came out to watch our match and participate in the ceremony and reception that went along with the unveiling. While we always want to win for each other and for ourselves, this week we especially wanted to win for the Bellomo clan, and show them how Judy has had an incredible influence on decades of Gaucho Women's Volleyball.

Although practices were physically and mentally demanding on Thursday and Friday, we felt prepared to play Riverside at home. We scouted them well, and knew their tendencies. We were focused during pass around and warm up. And we even went up 2 games to 0. But during halftime, something changed within them, and they came together as a team. The harder they fought, the more flustered we got, and it resulted in us losing in the fifth game. We couldn't believe it.

We realized though that this night wasn't for us, but rather for Judy's family, so we pulled ourselves together and helped celebrate the life of such an inspiring woman. Next weekend is one of our biggest weekends yet at home, versus Fullerton and Long Beach! Wish us luck! Over and out, GO GAUCHOS!!

OCTOBER 11

I'd like to start this entry off by congratulating Leah Sully on getting the Santa Barbara Athlete of the Week last week. We all watched her dominate against UOP and Davis, but a little recognition is always deserved.

While beating Pacific and Davis at home was glorious, we, once again, had to prepare for a battle on the road the following weekend. But we were absolutely excited! Holding the first place rank in Big West had put a calming demeanor over us, and we could look forward to playing to hold our position rather than playing to catch-up.

Our practices were solid during the week, but before we could play another conference match, we had to face off against the LMU Lions in their home gym down south. For lunch, we stopped at Tony P's, which is located in Marina Del Ray. Being the starving (and sneaky) athletes that we are, we were able to convince our waiter to give us bread sticks, even though our coaches weren't agreeing.

 

 

While we sat in the locker room at LMU, Katey told us that our Word of the Day was Industrious. Chelsey looked at me and said, "Like the Industrial Age!" First of all, it was called the Industrial REVOLUTION. Second, there is no correlation whatsoever. Like usual, this comment came as a surprise to no one.

Unfortunately, we were not able to beat LMU. We lost to them in a brutal 5 game match, and while we played poorly, they also played extremely well. We started off slow, and weren't able to gain momentum until it was too late. Although we were bummed and our confidence staggered slightly, we quickly shook it off because what mattered most was our conference match against Irvine the next night. LMU was simply a reality check.

Everyone woke up the next morning with this indescribable twinge of revival. There is something about Irvine that we can't stand and there is nothing in the world more appealing then beating them on their home court. We were both mentally and physically prepared, so all we had to do was bring our A-game. Our traditional game day picture (drawn by the artistically inclined Chelsey Lowe) portrayed the one word that was going through everyone's minds…

 

 

DESTROY. And that's just what we did. We took down Irvine in three games and Kathy told us that this was the kind of volleyball that she had been waiting for us to play all year: consistent and destructive.

Next stop, Wednesday at Cal Poly and Saturday at home vs. Riverside. Our only goal is to stay first in Big West. Wish us luck! Over and out, GO GAUCHOS!

 

OCTOBER 5

For those who follow UCSB women's volleyball, you know that this entry will not do justice to such a fabulous weekend. For those who don't follow, I hope this entry puts a smile on your face by the end of it.

The week of practice before the weekend of matches was grueling. After losing a tough loss to Fullerton, we expected nothing less. But nothing could dampen our spirits because we had our first two home games to look forward to!

On Friday evening there was an atmosphere in the locker room that I have never seen before. We were nervous, but we had never been more ready. Our warm up was good, the pep talk was good, and we felt comfortable in our own gym. And once we started playing, we had an unbeatable momentum that led us to a solid victory. Mistakes never brought us down, and we rallied after losing game three. Credit is given where credit is deserved, and I can honestly say that Leah Sully had one of the best matches of her career. She served 15 points in a row at the beginning of game four (which is obviously unheard of), and the entire night she couldn't miss a dig or hit. After the game, Kathy said that it was the best performance that she has seen from an outside hitter in 15 years! 

The next night wasn't quite so stable, but it was still an amazing game. While we had a sub-par warm-up, and we didn't play our best against Davis, we somehow squeaked out a win. It all came down to a fifth game, and after three service errors and other unforced errors, we found ourselves down 14-11. After a couple unexpected substitutions and we-have-nothing-to-lose plays, we were able to tie the game at 14-all, and then take the lead, making it 15-14. As we battled back and forth with Davis, we got the last point, winning 18-16. We couldn't believe it, and I don't think that it hit any of us until Kathy told us that it was "the best comeback in the history of UCSB women's volleyball." Enough said.

Here are some other glorious moments from the week:

  1. Congratulations to our very own Dan Ahiers who is officially "on the love boat" and moving in with his girlfriend. Lucky for him, KG is the new and improved Captain Stubing!
  2. Kathy has also presented some of her newest nicknames. ZZ is Thin Mint, Taylor P. is Barbie, and Jenna is Feather. The award for best nicknames has to go to Katey Thompson though, who has now been called The Thrasher, The Master Blaster, and T-Bone. HAHAHAHA.

After being ranked first in Big West, as well as getting votes for the NCAA rankings, we are looking forward to playing more matches and hopefully continuing our spree. Next stop, LMU and Irvine! Wish us luck! Over and out, GO GAUCHOS!

PS. Sorry for no pictures this week. With all the excitement I never thought to take out my phone and snap shots. Next week I won't let you down!

SEPTEMBER 27

I am happy to say that we have officially completed our first weekend of conference play 2011. Not quite so happy to say that we came out of it 1-1, rather than 2-0. Here's my breakdown:

Practice last week was tense. Not tense in a bad way, though. It was more of an anxious-tense. Kathy started the week by asking us what the definition of opportunity was. "An opportunity is a chance for us to take advantage of the situation that we are given, and to make the best of it." This applied directly to us because the weekend ahead of us was filled with opportunities that couldn't be more appealing. We got the chance to travel (for the fifth weekend in a row) to Long Beach and Fullerton and face off against the teams that got first and second in our conference last year. It was an opportunity for us to prove that all of our hard work has paid off. Winning alone is gratifying, but winning on their home courts would be the cherry on top.

Friday couldn't come soon enough, and finally we found ourselves sitting in the locker room of The Pyramid, anticipating the game ahead of us. Nerves, smiles, and excitement filtered throughout, as it was the freshmen's first games, and the senior's last time playing in Long Beach (they noted that they had never won in the Pyramid during their career at UCSB).

 
 

And then Kathy came in and gave a great pre-game pep talk. She was right when she said, "Use your GPA compared to them! We have a lot to show, so let's show it!" That was enough to get us fired up, and we were able to sneak away with the W, after a tiring 5-game match. As we stormed the court after the last point, Kathy let out a shout, and gave a fist pump into the air. Back in the locker room, Jenna showed her excitement by "dougie-ing" for us (those who know the dance will appreciate this as much as we did), as seen below.

 
 

Even though our adrenaline was pumping, a 40-minute bus ride back to the hotel, complimented by a delicious dinner from Chipotle, calmed us back down, and got us focused on the next day: a HUGE game against defending Big-West champs, Fullerton.

As Kathy gave her pre-game talk, the one thing that she said that stood out most was, "when you get a chance to pay someone back, it HAS to mean more." We were pumped up and ready to go, and we showed that when we took game one easily. But the next two games were not so pretty. We went from playing our best in game one, to one of our worst in game two and three. As Kathy phrased it, we basically "self destructed." Thankfully we gathered ourselves, and came back to win game four, but we were devastated when we lost game five to a team that we thought we could beat in three.

As always, we learned a lot from the weekend. It is just one of many, and we know that we have to be able to build a confidence that will lead to consistency. Every season is filled with ups and downs, we just happened to have both in one weekend. Don't worry though; we are out for revenge. Next stop, OUR FIRST HOME GAMES versus Pacific and Davis!! Wish us luck!

Over and out, GO GAUCHOS!!

September 20

Hey everyone, sorry for the temporary delay in updates. I experienced technical difficulties, and the hard-drive in my indestructible MacBook Pro went haywire, causing it to spend quality time (2 weeks) with the Mac Mechanics. But now I'm back, and ready to write.  

 

What's the theme of this entry? The ultimate recap of preseason and our last three tournaments. We have played at Santa Clara, Pepperdine, and San Diego since my last blog entry, and we have come out of it all with a winning record for preseason: 7 wins, and 5 loses.

 

The week of practice after BYU was not a good one. It's hard to explain why, but when I try to put it in words, I think that there was a major lack of communication and energy on the court. But as the week drew on, practice started to pick up, slowly but surely. We approached the Pepperdine Tournament with more confidence than we had at the beginning of the week, but still, we weren't prepared enough. We were absolutely shut down by the big blocks, springy hitters, fast offense, aggressive defense and overall competitive attitude of Pepperdine and Miami (both ranked teams).  Fortunately, we came out of the tournament with a confidence-boosting win over Georgia.

 

But we knew that, because of our poor attitudes and big losses, practice the next week was going to be brutal. And we were nothing but right. Kathy held no mercy; she paced around the gym, scrutinizing every pass, every dig, every hit, every set. She demanded everything out of us… and then some. We stuck together as a team, and committed to winning for each other, no one else.

 

In Santa Clara on Friday morning, before our match against North Dakota, we sat in the locker room, slightly nervous, but ready to play. For us, nothing is more rewarding than winning a match after a tough week of practice. We were completely caught off guard when KG came in to give her pre-game talk. She was positive and energized, which fired the team up. It was an incredibly inspiring pep talk that, I swear, helped us win the game. When Kathy is behind us 100% there is no stopping us. And from there we went on to sweep North Dakota, bringing Kathy her 850th career win!

 
 

And believe it or not, Kathy's post-game talk was even better than her pre-game talk. She was throwing out compliments left and right, and she said she was proud of us. Can't get much better than that. But this win was just the beginning of the weekend. We went on to beat both Santa Clara and San Jose, making us 5-4. Kathy was giving high fives (which, trust me, doesn't happen often), Lily had her own personal block party at the net, shutting down the opposing team's offenses, and even though Kathy had lost her voice from excitement, she let us make a stop at Yogurtland and get a treat before the drive home. All together, it was a very successful weekend, and we proved to ourselves, our coaches, our fans, and other teams, that we are a force to be reckoned with.

 

This week's Words of Wisdom (courtesy of Kara Sherrard): BIG GIRLS FALL HARD.

 

The following week of practice was an enormous improvement, compared to the previous week. We were confident, energetic, steady, and ready to compete in another tournament. Even though we were excited to play, the first 24 hours of our trip down south were not so good. We drove down to University of San Diego on Thursday afternoon, which took a solid four hours, and then we proceeded to sit on the bus in the parking lot of our hotel for an entire hour while we waited for our room keys to be made. At one point, we thought everything was ready, so we exited the bus, only to have to turn around and get back on and listen to Kathy tell us that she "didn't get off the bus because she could sense that it wasn't ready." SHE COULD SENSE IT!! Even our pass-around the next morning wasn't up to par, and it led to one of the worst matches we have played yet. We were swept by USD, not because they beat us, but because we beat ourselves. The game we played wasn't our game, but we knew we could shake it off and start over.

 

And we did just that. The next day was a complete 180. We beat a tough Indiana team in a grueling 5 game match, rested for a couple hours (naps on the locker room floor, cough, Katey and Chelsey, cough), and then swept a scrappy George Washington team that night.

 

 

 

 

It was the best birthday present I could ask for! All together, the day was much more successful. There seemed to be less pressure, and everyone was a little less tense. Hanna had an indescribable play of the week that had Kathy laughing so hard she was unable to give her serving signs during the next play. It didn't even make us cringe (too much) when Chelsey served a ball that didn't even make it to the net.

 

Nothing but positive energy and smiles filled the bus on the ride home. After a seemingly endless preseason, we are more than ready to start conference. It's time to get down to business. Next stop, Long Beach and Fullerton. Wish us luck! Over and out, GO GAUCHOS!

 

September 1

Hi everyone, Erica Lau here. Intermittently throughout our volleyball season I will be submitting entries to this blog (suitably titled The Lau Down, pun intended) in order to inform our curious followers of the highs and lows that come along with being on the UCSB Women's Volleyball Team.

So, we started the infamous double days on August 8th, and lets just say we worked our little butts off. Besides the much anticipated 'Nike Christmas' where we received all of our Gaucho gear, a typical day went something like this: wake up, eat, practice, lift/condition, eat, practice, eat, sleep, repeat. Two and a half weeks later, it's safe to say that we were ready to start competing, even if it meant traveling to the most, well, interesting town in the country, Provo, Utah.

We thought double, rather triple, days were rough until we realized who we were matched up against in Utah. We arrived in beautiful Provo on Wednesday night, and  had a practice Thursday afternoon. With a lot of down time , a couple of us explored BYU, stumbling upon things like the football stadium, the basketball arena, and, of course, the Brigham Young University Museum of Paleontology. Below you can see Jenna being casually 'eaten' by some kind of dinosaur (yes, she made a screaming noise the entire time the picture was being taken):

 

We played our first match on Friday night against 26th ranked St. Mary's. Not only was this match important to us because of standings and RPI and such, but also because they were the team that we lost to in the first round of playoffs two years prior. Revenge was in the air, and we weren't going down without a fight. And, boy, was it sweet. Although we lost the first two games, we revved up our engines and came back to beat them in 5. I would like to give a shout out to Leah Sully, one of our outside hitters. Ironically, the last full match that she played in was against St. Mary's two years ago. Beginning of last season, she tore her ACL during our first match, and was out for the year. Lucky for us, she is back in action, and firing on all cylinders, racking in 16 kills and 18 digs. Not a bad first match, if I say so myself. Welcome back Sully, we sure missed you. Stacey Schmidt also went to town with a whopping 18 kills (.455 hitting percentage) and 11 block assists. Such sweet, sweet revenge.

Unfortunately, the next morning we played BYU, and we went from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows in a matter of minutes. It was not pretty volleyball, and as Kathy put it, "I don't know what kind of Mormons would want to get up for this match!" It was not an easy match to take in, but we tried our best to learn from our mistakes and mentally prepare for our match that evening against 8th ranked Illinois.

Our blood was pumping as we prepared for our last match against the Fighting Illini. While none of us understood their strange nickname, we all understood what Kathy expected from us. She made it loud and clear. "If they dig us off the court, I'll eat this paper!" Well said, Kathy, well said. Fortunately for us, no paper was consumed that night, as we put up a serious fight against Illinois. Although we lost in 4 games, our stats were one to be reckoned with. Stacey led the team with 20 kills, and Chelsey Lowe had an amazing 29 digs.  While we all know that Chelsey isn't necessarily quick on her feet when it comes to wit and humor, she was sure quick on her feet when it came to the volleyball court. She received and dug like there was no tomorrow, and she greatly helped our team do as well as we did. Leah was second in digs with 15. One of the funnier moments was when Leah "accidently" yelled, "You're EASY!!" as she read and dug an attack from their lefty setter with ease. All in all, we were encouraged by our game, and Kathy was pretty pleased herself. 

This week's words of wisdom? Coming at you, BYU style:

 

Three weeks down, plenty more to go. Next stop, Pepperdine, where we face off against Pepp, Miami, and Georgia. Wish us luck! Over and out, GO GAUCHOS!