Gauchos Fall Just Short in Five Set Season-Opening Thriller

Lindsey Ruddins (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Lindsey Ruddins (photo by Eric Isaacs)

OXFORD, Ohio – The UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team was resilient in its season-opening match against Cincinnati on Friday afternoon at the Miami Invitational, but the Gauchos couldn't get the final two points to go their way in a 15-13 fifth set defeat. The first four sets went 21-25, 25-16, 16-25, 25-20.

Reigning NCAA kills leader Lindsey Ruddins picked up right where she left off last season, leading the Gaucho attack with 21 kills and three aces. She has now surpassed the 20-kill mark in 11 of her last 12 matches dating back to last season.

Ruddins' final kill of the day capped a well-timed 3-0 run for UCSB to tie the fifth set at 13-13. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, attacking errors on the next two points would end the match in the Bearcats' favor.

Providing support to the UCSB attack were junior outside hitter Torre Glasker and freshman setter Olivia Lovenberg. Both players finished with double-doubles in their Gaucho debuts, with Glasker tallying 13 kills and 12 digs and Lovenberg going for 37 assists and 10 scoops.

Providing the first punch early on was freshman Tallulah Froley, whose season-opening kill started a 4-0 run out of the gates. Glasker followed Froley's point with back-to-back aces, and Ruddins capped the run with her first kill of the year.

Glasker would finish with five of her team's 11 aces, equaling the entire Cincinnati team. The 11 aces were the most for the Gauchos since they had 14 against Hawai'i in October of 2017, the only time last season that they had more than 10.

UCSB led 13-4 midway through the opening game, but Cincinnati answered back by scoring 21 of the next 29 points, including four straight to end the set at 25-21.

While it was Cincinnati winning the odd-numbered sets, the Gauchos were at their best in the second and fourth, when they hit at .424 and .484 clips as a team, respectively. The second set saw them drop the first point before scoring six unanswered. UCSB's lead would not drop below four points the rest of the game. Sophomore Nicole Omwanghe provided the finishing touches with her second kill to win the set 25-16, tying the match at 1-1.

The Gauchos kept things close until midway through the third set. After a Bearcat attacking error brought UCSB level at 12-12, Cincinnati closed it out on a 13-4 run to retake the lead.

UCSB more than doubled the Bearcats' hitting percentage in game four, outhitting them .484 to .241 while registering six fewer attacking errors and four fewer service errors.

Senior libero Emilia Petrachi finished with a team-high 17 digs to go along with six assists. Senior Lexi Rottman added 13 assists and six digs.

Chipping in offensively were juniors Rowan Ennis and Charlie Robinson, with 10 and nine kills, respectively. Robinson led her team with an efficient .533 hitting percentage.

The Gauchos will be back in action tomorrow morning when they face tournament host Miami at 7:00 a.m. (PT) in a match that will be broadcast on ESPN+. They will then close the opening weekend out against Saint Louis at 1:30 p.m. (PT).