UCSB Triumphs Over UCLA for First Time Since 1998

Deni Wilson goes up for one of her nine kills against UCLA on Wednesday night. (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Deni Wilson goes up for one of her nine kills against UCLA on Wednesday night. (Photo by Jeff Liang)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – For the first time in 21 years, the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team emerged victorious against UCLA. Led by 17 kills from Lindsey Ruddins and 15 from freshman Tallulah Froley, the Gauchos rolled to a 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 28-26) sweep over the visiting Bruins on Wednesday night in the Thunderdome.

UCSB (9-1) has now won seven consecutive matches while UCLA drops to 5-4.

"We know that we have a very good team this year and we're having a lot of success, but it is special to take down UCLA," said head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "And to do it in three sets just says a lot about the level of volleyball we're playing right now."

UCSB was incredibly efficient throughout the match, finishing with a .394 (50-9-104) hitting percentage while UCLA hit .252 (43-16-107). In fact, it was the most efficient match for the Gauchos since Sept. 28, 2013 when UCSB also hit .394 in a sweep over UC Irvine during Lantagne Welch's first season at the helm.

No player was more efficient than Froley, who sent 15 of her 21 attacks down for kills with just one error. Freshman middle blocker Deni Wilson added to the effort with nine kills on 14 attempts for a .571 clip.

The Gauchos enjoyed a red hot first set, hitting .469 with 16 kills and just one error as Froley and Wilson led the way with five kills apiece. After the score was even at four, UCSB never looked back and led the rest of the set. Ruddins finished with four kills in the frame, including the final point for a 25-16 win.

The second set was more of the same as UCSB jumped out to a 3-0 lead, highlighted by another Froley kill, and never trailed on its way to another 25-16 set victory.

The third set, however, featured 20 ties and nine lead changes as both teams traded point for point in a back-and-forth battle. Ruddins put UCSB ahead 21-20 late, but the Bruins rallied for four straight points to take a 24-21 lead. Looking to avoid a fourth set and the momentum shifting to UCLA, the Gauchos responded by staving off four straight set points, highlighted by key blocks from Wilson along with Ruddins on one play, and Torre Glasker on the other. In a furious rally with the score tied 24-24, libero Zoe Fleck had a sensational diving play to keep the ball alive and Froley finished off the play to give UCSB the 25-24 edge. UCLA managed to put two straight points together to regain the advantage, but Santa Barbara responded once again with three straight points, led by none other than Froley with back-to-back kills and a game-ending kill from Rowan Ennis.

"We've had our backs against the wall a few times this season, even in five set matches," Lantagne Welch said. "That's been good experience for us because we've been able to persevere, and it happened again tonight in a bigger moment."

Setters Olivia Lovenberg and Romoni Vivao did a masterful job of running the offense to the tune of 24 and 18 assists, respectively. On the defensive end, Fleck finished with a team-high 14 digs while Glasker also reached double-figures with 10. Wilson and Ruddins added four total blocks apiece while Glasker added three. Ennis finished with four kills to go along with a pair of blocks.

UCLA was led by 13 kills from Savvy Simo and 12 from Mac May. Devon Chang totaled 28 assists and May finished with a game-high 15 digs.

The Gauchos round out non-conference action at home this Friday, Sept. 20 at 6:00 p.m. against Pepperdine.