SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins was named the Big West Player of the Week on Monday afternoon for the third time this season after totaling 59 kills in a conference split.
The Laguna Niguel, Calif. native joins an elite club with her third weekly nod from the conference, as she is just the third Gaucho ever to do so in a single season and the first since Rebecca Saraceno in 2009. With the remainder of the 2017 season and two further years of eligibility remaining in her career, Ruddins trails Saraceno and Roberta Gehlke by one for the most career Big West Player of the Week Awards by a Gaucho.
Even more impressively, the star outside raised her NCAA-leading kills average to 5.78 per set for the campaign. Should she remain at the perch of the NCAA kills list, she will become the first UCSB player in school history to finish a season with the top kills average in the country. She also paces the nation in both points per set (6.33) and attacks per set (14.98).
Ruddins recorded 32 kills on Friday night to help the Gauchos outlast UC Irvine – which entered the match with a 21-4 record – in five sets. With UCSB needing a jolt after dropping games three and four, Ruddins absolutely took over the decisive fifth set, notching nine kills on just 12 swings before teaming up with sophomore middle blocker Charlie Robinson for the match-clinching block as the Gauchos sailed to a 15-8 victory. Those nine fifth-set kills are the most by a Gaucho in the rally scoring era and the most by any player in the NCAA this season.
The 32 kills represented the second-most single-match kills in her career. Paired with her 36-kill performance against then-No. 15 Florida State back on Aug. 26 – the most kills recorded in a single contest by any player in the NCAA this season and two off UCSB's all-time record – Ruddins has the two-highest kill outputs by a Big West player in 2017. She is one of just three players nationwide to have landed more than 30 kills in two separate matches.
"Lindsey had a huge weekend for us," said UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "Her performance against a very good Irvine team was off the charts, but what stands out the most is what she did in the fifth set. She took advantage of her teammates' ability to set her up and made us confident that there was no doubt we were going to win."
She followed that up with a 27-kill outing on Saturday night in a four-set loss to UC Davis. In that contest, she recorded a block solo on consecutive plays for the second time this season, ending the match by tying her season-high with five total blocks.
"The fact that she was able to follow up with another outstanding outing is what sets her apart from a lot of other great players in the country," said Lantagne Welch. "She is performing night-in and night-out for us."
Ruddins added 11 digs against the Anteaters for her team-leading ninth double-double of the season, then finished one short of another double-double with nine digs against the Aggies. For the week, she hit .331 (59-13-139) while averaging 2.22 digs and 0.67 blocks per set.
UCSB freshman opposite Kjia Rivers was nominated as the league's Freshman of the Week after averaging 1.22 blocks and .308 hitting for the weekend.
The Gauchos open up a season-ending three-match road trip this weekend with contests at Cal State Fullerton on Friday night and UC Riverside on Saturday night. The Gauchos swept both those teams earlier this year in matchups at the Thunderdome.