Gauchos Open Thunderdome Classic with 3-0 Sweep of CSU Bakersfield

From left to right: Charlie Robinson, Lexi Rottman, Chloe Allen (Photo by Sam Wasson)
From left to right: Charlie Robinson, Lexi Rottman, Chloe Allen (Photo by Sam Wasson)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – With match-highs of 14 kills and eight blocks, Lindsey Ruddins led the Gauchos to a 3-0 victory (25-11, 25-20, 26-24) over CSU Bakersfield in their Thunderdome Classic opener on Friday.

UCSB cruised through the first set 25-11, but had to put together a comeback rally late in the third to pull off the sweep in the tight 26-24 battle.

"I think we learned a lot about the two-point and extra-point games last weekend," Welch said. "We have been in those games quite a bit and because of that we have become used to that, so today we were able to stay the course and found our opportunities."

Ruddins, who finished with 19.5 points, swung at a season-best .481 clip, while Chanel Hoffman was behind her with 11 kills and a 31.0 hitting percentage. Hoffman also picked up her second consecutive double-double after leading the match with 17 digs, just ahead of Emilia Petrachi's 14.

"She had a heck of a match, playing really well offensively and defensively," head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "She was very consistent and did an excellent job for us on the front line."

While the second and third sets saw both teams reach the 20s, including an extra set bout in the third, the Gauchos made sure they had control of the match early after taking the first set 25-11. In that game, UCSB out-killed the Roadrunners 14-5 in the set, while they also dominated the hitting percentage column .462 to -.062.

"We were putting them on the defensive and really we were just executing well," Welch said. "We were playing very clean on the offensive end with our great passing, which really allowed us to do whatever we wanted."

Bakersfield, however, went on to make things interesting in the second set after keeping the score tight early on until the teams battled to a 14-14 tie. That's when the Gauchos made their break.

After winning serve back on a Charlie Robinson kill, Lexi Rottman went to the service line and led UCSB on a 6-0 run. While the sophomore notched an ace during the stretch, the next few points really belonged to Robinson and Ruddins who each picked up a kill and a block, helping the Gauchos grab a 20-14 lead.

From there, Hoffman did the rest as she recorded the team's final three points on kills and secured UCSB's 2-0 lead.

And though Bakersfield came up short in the second set, they did pick up some momentum which they brought over to the third, which say neither team hold a lead larger than three points.

With neither able to have any stronghold on the game, it looked the Roadrunners would take control after going on top 23-21 following a 3-0 run, prompting a UCSB timeout.

"I though it was important that we stayed calm and confident on the court," Welch said. "They had jumped on a little bit of momentum and we were trying to slow that down and, fortunately for us, we came out an executed from there."

There's no doubt the Gauchos were able to execute, as they fired off a 3-0 run with Rowan Ennis posting a block alongside Phoebe Grunt and throwing down a kill to give her team match point. And though Bakersfield forced extras, the Gauchos did away with them quickly with a Ruddins kill followed by an attacking error.

UCSB will continue its home tournament tonight when they face Baylor in the Thunderdome at 7 p.m.