SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A season-high 14 service aces from the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team proved to be not enough on Saturday night against visiting Hawai'i, as the Gauchos dropped a four-set decision to the Rainbow Wahine at Rob Gym (25-20, 25-22, 19-25, 25-17).
UCSB (6-16, 5-5 Big West) was led on offense by 23 kills from sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins, the reigning National Player of the Week and Big West Conference Player of the Week. Sophomore outside Chloe Allen turned in one of her top performances of the season, notching 16 kills against a squad that entered the night with the top defensive numbers in the league.
Junior setter Annie Hasselmann was the Gauchos' top server against the Rainbow Wahine, putting down a career-high six aces. Junior setter/defensive specialist Lexi Rottman added three aces off the bench, while Ruddins and sophomore middle blocker Charlie Robinson had a pair each.
"One of our goals for the night was to get them out of system as much as possible, so we knew we were going to be really aggressive on the serve," said UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "We have a lot of good servers on this team, and a bunch of them were able to get in a groove tonight."
Hawai'i improved to 16-7, 10-2 with the victory, receiving 21 kills from McKenna Granato and 13 from Emily Maglio on .407 hitting.
UH created a decisive cushion halfway through the first set, reeling off five consecutive points to take a 17-13 lead. Six kills in the frame from Granato allowed the Rainbow Wahine to maintain that lead. UCSB had its best run of play behind three consecutive service aces from Lexi Rottman as part of a run that saw the Gauchos come back from an 8-12 deficit to tie it.
Despite solid offensive outings from Ruddins (nine kills) and Allen (five kills), UCSB couldn't overcome UH in the second set, as the Rainbow Wahine outhit UCSB .333 to .227 while receiving four or more kills from a trio of hitters. The Gauchos showed resolve late in the frame, denying the visitors on three straight set points before ultimately succumbing on an attack error.
The Gauchos put forth their best effort just after the halftime break, hitting .323 and uncorking five aces in the third. Importantly, the Gauchos had a balanced offense, with both Ruddins and Allen grabbing four kills. Things started off auspiciously from the very get-go in the frame, with a pair of aces from Robinson helping the hosts to a 4-1 lead early.
UCSB saw its lead balloon later in the set, with four straight points (two Hasselmann aces and two Allen kills) stretching the score to 17-11. UH would cut the deficit to four at 19-15, forcing a timeout, but UCSB kept the Rainbow Wahine at arms-length the rest of the way, sending it to the fourth on a Casey Castillo service error.
The Gauchos found themselves behind the eight ball in the final set, as Hawai'i jumped out to a 7-0 lead which ultimately proved to be the difference. Behind long service runs from Ruddins and Hasselmann – including the latter's' final two aces of the evening – UCSB would eventually make it as close as 21-16, but UH would go on to win four of the final five points to clinch the match.
UCSB is next in action next Friday night, Nov. 3, at Blue-Green rival Cal Poly. The Gauchos host their final two home matches of the year the following weekend.