SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team got past its first hurdle in an important conference weekend, wiping the floor with Cal State Fullerton in a convincing four-set victory on Friday night at the Thunderdome.
While the scores – 25-19, 29-27, 23-25, 25-13 – indicate that the match was much closer than it truly was. UCSB won nearly every long rally, hit nearly 100 points better than the Titans and outserved the visitors to move to 12-9 overall and 5-3 in the Big West. The Gauchos now await a first-place showdown with Long Beach State on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
Kara Sherrard led the Gauchos with 18 kills and turned in her seventh straight double-double with 18 digs. UCSB had four players record double digit kills and digs, setting a season-best by picking up 98 digs on the night. Chelsey Lowe led the way with 27 digs while Leah Sully had 18 and setter Hanna Nielson added 15.
Senior Lily Lopez turned in another stellar performance with 14 kills while also tallying three block assists and five digs while freshman Taylor Pischke had 12 kills and Stacey Schmidt added 10 kills and four block assists.
The Gauchos never trailed in the opening set, hitting a robust .370 to start Cal State Fullerton's (9-11, 4-4) downfall. Despite falling behind 5-0 in the second and facing two set points in the second set, Santa Barbara was not going to go away easily.
Rallying from the five-point hole, the Gauchos eventually caught the Titans at 10-apiece and then took a 13-10 lead on a Lopez kill, one of Leah Sully's four aces and a hitting error by Fullerton. UCSB then took what appeared to be a commanding 19-13 lead after four straight attack errors by the Titans.
Yet, CSUF rallied back and then began using some sideways tactics that could only be interpreted as gamesmanship. After nearly every point scored by UCSB, the Titans began asking for the floor to be wiped, slowing the Gauchos' momentum. The two teams see-sawed from 23-23 onward until consecutive kills from Sherrard and an attack error gave the Gauchos the game.
CSUF lulled UCSB to sleep in the third set with more claims that the floor was wet with sweat, completely throwing the pace of the game into neutral, again asking for the floor to be wiped whenever UCSB scored. Oddly enough, the floor seemed completely dry after every Fullerton point.
Either way the Titans won the third set after coming back from a 21-17 deficit and then breaking away from a 23-all tie.
UCSB would have no more of the Titans' gamesmanship and thoroughly dominated CSUF in the fourth set, leaving the CSUF coaching staff in frustration as even the Titans' coaches tried to slow the set down by constantly asking the referees if their team was out of rotation.
UCSB cruised through the Titans easily in one of their best sets of the season, swinging at a .308 clip and winning easily to prepare for Long Beach State, which beat Cal Poly in five sets. The 49ers (13-6, 7-2) dropped the conference opener to UCSB in five sets at The Pyramid in late September.
Tickets are available by calling (805) 893-UCSB, stopping by the Intercollegiate Athletics Building in campus during special Saturday hours (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.) or by clicking here.