Gauchos Top Wyoming in Five-Set Thriller, Fall to Colorado on Day Two of Buffs Invitational

Lindsey Ruddins (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Lindsey Ruddins (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

BOULDER, Colo. – On the final day of the Buffs Invitational, the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team came away with a thrilling, five-set come-from-behind victory over Wyoming, 3-2 (25-21, 20-25, 26-28, 25-16, 15-11) before falling to host Colorado 3-1 (25-16, 25-19, 22-25, 25-21) on Saturday night.

UCSB 3, Wyoming 2 (25-21, 20-25, 26-28, 25-16, 15-11)
In the first match of the day, the Gauchos rallied from a 2-1 set deficit to defeat Wyoming and open the season with back-to-back wins. After pouring in a game-high and season-best 21 kills, senior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins moved into second all-time in UCSB history in career kills. Entering the day just one kill behind Kristie Ryan (1989-92), Ruddins' 21 gave her 1,567 for her career, also leap-frogging Danielle Bauer (1999-2002). Ruddins, who totaled 587 kills last season, is chasing only Roberta Gehlke (1996-99), who is the all-time leader with 2,153.

Neither team recorded an efficient hitting percentage, with the Gauchos edging the Cowgirls .130 (64-38-200) to .120 (50-28-184) for the match. UCSB recorded 92 digs to 83 for Wyoming while the Gauchos also out-blocked its opponent 23-15.

Zoe Fleck and Torre Glasker were defensive forces throughout the match, recording 28 and 21 digs, respectively, while Ruddins added 16 for the double-double. Deni Wilson followed up her strong freshman debut with another solid 11-kill, four-block performance while Rowan Ennis led the team with eight blocks to go along with eight kills.

Olivia Lovenberg (27 assists) and Romoni Vivao (24 assists) shared the setting duties again while Tallulah Froley and Kija Rivers tallied seven kills apiece.

After splitting the first two sets, the Gauchos dropped a heartbreaking third set, 28-26, after staving off a set point, only to have two set points of their own denied. Wyoming took advantage of a pair of attacking errors to steal the set and take a 2-1 lead.

Santa Barbara regrouped and came out hot in the fourth set after a trio of kills from Ruddins sparked a quick 7-3 lead. UCSB maintained its lead throughout to force a deciding fifth set and went back-and-forth until leading 10-9 down the stretch. A Wilson kill followed by a Glasker service ace pushed the lead to three, 12-9, before another Wilson kill, a kill by Ruddins and a Rivers and Ennis block sealed the game.

Colorado 3, UCSB 1 (25-16, 25-19, 22-25, 25-21)
In the night cap on Saturday evening, the Gauchos went up against host Colorado, who received votes in the latest AVCA Top-25 Poll, and pushed the Buffaloes late but ultimately fell 3-1.

Ruddins led the way once again on the offensive end with 19 kills while Ennis, Froley, Wilson and Tasia Farmer tallied seven apiece. Vivao turned in a 17-assist, 11-dig double-double while Lovenberg dished out 22 assists to lead the team. At the net, Ennis sent down seven blocks while Glasker added four.

Colorado outhit the Gauchos .227 (50-21-128) to .144 (51-30-146) and finished with 58 digs to UCSB's 48 while the Gauchos edged the Buffaloes 21-20 in total blocks.

Santa Barbara was within two, 15-13, in the first set before a 10-3 Colorado run gave the opening frame to the Buffs, 25-16.

After dropping the second set 25-19, the Gauchos would not go down without a fight and battled back to win the third 25-22. A kill from Ennis gave UCSB a 22-16 lead late before Colorado would mount a 5-0 run to make it a 22-21 game. After a UCSB timeout, Wilson and Glasker teamed up for a block to give UCSB a bit of separation on the scoreboard, and Lovenberg delivered a clutch service ace to give the Gauchos set point. Colorado snagged the next point, but Lovenberg would set up Wilson for the set-winning kill on the very next play.

UCSB carried its momentum over into the fourth set, leading for much of the frame and as late as 20-17, but Colorado, led by Justine Spann (21 kills), would go on an 8-1 run down the stretch to take the match.

The Gauchos (2-1) are back in action next Friday, Sept. 6 against NC State at 11:30 a.m. PT to open the VCU Invitational.