UCSB Closes Out Away Schedule With Trip to No. 14 Hawai'i

Hannah Juley & Phoebe Grunt (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Hannah Juley & Phoebe Grunt (Photo by Tony Mastres)

• The Schedule
Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 9 p.m. (PST)
UC Santa Barbara (17-10, 8-6) at No. 14 Hawai'i (20-5, 13-1)

At Stan Sheriff Center
All-time record vs. Rainbow Wahine: 6-35
Last meeting: L, 3-0 (Sep. 23, 2016)

• Last Weekend Recap

UCSB split a pair of home matches last weekend, defeating Cal State Fullerton 3-1 on Friday before falling 3-2 to UC Riverside on Saturday. Against the Titans, Lindsey Ruddins had another outstanding effort, setting career-highs of 27 kills and 15 digs. The Gauchos struggled against the Highlanders the following night, losing the final two sets and hitting at just a .181 clip as a team. Emilia Petrachi, who posted 22 digs in each match, now has cracked the 20-dig mark in three straight outings for the second time in her career.

• Preview

The Gauchos will play their 2016 road finale at No. 14 Hawai'i, the same team they opened up conference play against back in September. The first place Rainbow Wahine hit at a .382 clip as a team in that match, defeating UCSB 3-0 behind a match-high 13 kills from McKenna Granato. During league play, Hawai'i has led the Big West in both hitting percentage (.296) and blocks per set (3.08). The Rainbow Wahine are coming off a perfect 2-0 weekend on the road which resulted in a sweep of the conference's weekly awards. Senior opposite Nikky Taylor, who ranks first in the conference with an average of 4.53 kills per set, earned Player of the Week honors for the second time this season after posting 4.50 kills, 1.83 digs and 1.50 blocks per set in a pair of 3-0 wins. Junior middle hitter Emily Maglio was named Big West Defensive Player of the Week after averaging 2.0 blocks per set and tying a career high with nine blocks against UC Irvine. She also leads the Big West hitting at an extremely efficient .399 clip. Finally, Norene Iosia was named Freshman of the Week after tallying 10.17 assists and 3.83 digs per set over the weekend. Hawai'i has won 25 straight sets dating back to October 14, and has won eight straight matches.

• Fantastic Freshman

Lindsey Ruddins' incredible year got even better this past weekend, as she set multiple career-highs with 27 kills and 15 digs in a 3-1 win over Cal State Fullerton. After bursting onto the scene with three straight Freshman of the Week awards to start the season, her overall game has continued to see a steady improvement over the course of the season. Ruddins had just three aces through her first 19 matches, but in her last six outings alone, she's tallied an incredible 23 points from the service line, putting her at 0.96 aces per set over that span. Against UC Irvine two weekends ago, she had a near triple-double with 15 kills, nine digs and a career-high eight aces as she led her team to a convincing 3-0 victory. She has earned Freshman of the Week honors five times this year, the second-most of any player in Big West history, and ranks third in the conference with an average of 4.08 kills per set.

• Serve's Up

Aside from Ruddins' recent outburst from the service line, UCSB as a unit has been excellent with its serving all season, leading the Big West at 1.67 aces per set. Since the start of Big West play, that number has increased to 1.74, well ahead of second-ranked UC Irvine's mark of 1.41. Lexi Rottman and Hannah Juley lead UCSB with 30 and 27 aces on the year, respectively.

• Block Party

As a team, the Gauchos have been a force to be reckoned with at the net, as they are currently second in the Big West with 2.45 blocks per set, behind only No. 14 Hawai'i. Against UC Riverside this past Saturday, UCSB had 17 total roofs, its second highest total of the season. Elizabeth Sheffield and Phoebe Grunt average 0.92 and 0.90 blocks per set, respectively, to lead the team. Since the beginning of conference play, Sheffield has raised her average to 1.05 blocks per set, good for the fourth-best mark in the Big West.

• Tenacious D

Emilia Petrachi has been one of the Gauchos' most consistent players all year, leading the conference with 4.60 digs per set and 451 digs overall. Petrachi recorded 22 digs in each of the Gauchos' matches this past weekend, marking the second time in her career that she has reached 20 or more digs in three consecutive matches and giving her eight total this season. The Italian national has earned two Big West Defensive Player of the Week awards this year and has reached double-digit digs in 25 out of 27 matches.

• Going Out With A Bang

UCSB's recent five-match win streak was its longest in conference play since 2013, when the team won eight straight on the way to a Big West title. The Gauchos' latest streak coincided with the emergence of senior middle blocker Elizabeth Sheffield, who has saved some of her best performances ever for the second half of the season. In her last six matches, Sheffield has averaged 2.78 kills and 1.17 blocks per set while hitting at a .478 clip. During that same span, she reached a career-high 14 kills two times and reached a personal-best eight blocks at Cal Poly. 

• Get Set

Setter Hannah Juley has had an outstanding freshman season, ranking third in Big West play with 10.35 assists per set. Three weeks ago, she earned her first Big West Freshman of the Week award, notching a double-double with 31 assists and 11 digs in a road sweep over Cal Poly. With the Gauchos trailing 20-24 in the third set, she played a part in every point for the remainder of the match, earning an assist and two aces as UCSB went on a 6-0 run to end the match. Her 991 assists this season are the most for any player during the Lantagne Welch era (2013), and this Saturday, she should become the first Gaucho since Hanna Nielson (2011) to reach the 1,000 assist mark.

• Fresh Legs

It's been an outstanding year for UCSB's freshmen, taking home Freshman of the Week honors in six out of 12 weeks. Surprisingly enough, yet another freshman has emerged as a key contributor this late in the season. Against UC Davis two weeks ago, Chloe Allen led the Gauchos' comeback, finishing with a match-high 19 kills while hitting at a .394 clip. She would reach double-digit kills again playing against UC Riverside last Saturday, finishing with 11 kills and a career-high four blocks. Over the past five matches, she is averaging 2.61 kills per set while hitting at a .243 clip.