Anteaters Hand Gauchos First Home Loss of 2018 in Conference Opener

Torre Glasker (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
Torre Glasker (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Facing a resilient UC Irvine team in its Big West opener Tuesday night, the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team fell in four sets, 25-19, 29-27, 11-25, 26-24.

The Gauchos (8-5, 0-1) took early leads in each of the first two sets, only to see the Anteaters (7-6, 1-0) come back both times to take a commanding 2-0 advantage. Redshirt junior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins went for a match-high 23 kills, nine of which came in the decisive fourth set. It was almost twice as many kills as any other player, as Irvine's Abby Marjama and Idara Akpakpa came in second with 12 kills apiece.

Nine of Ruddins' kills came in a decisive fourth set which went down to the wire. After the Anteaters jumped out to a 14-8 lead, Ruddins and junior middle blocker Charlie Robinson led an 8-2 charge as UCSB tied things at 16-16. Robinson was one of three Gauchos to reach double-digits in kills, ending her night with 10 on an efficient .350 hitting percentage.

Both teams traded runs until a fortuitous bounce over off a diving Emilia Petrachi dig turned into the libero's first kill of the season, giving the Gauchos their first lead of the set, 22-21. Unfortunately for the home side, the Anteaters put away four of the next seven points, winning it 26-24 on a Marjama kill.

A season-high four Gauchos ended the day with at least 10 digs, led by libero Emilia Petrachi. The senior ended her day with 25 scoops (6.25 D/S), good for her second-highest total of 2018. Ruddins also tallied a career-high 18 digs for her team-leading eight double-double of the year.

Junior outside hitter Torre Glasker claimed her seventh double-double with 11 kills and 11 digs. Defensive specialist Zoe Fleck added 10 scoops of her own, reaching double-figures for the third time in her freshman season. The Gauchos outdug the Anteaters 76-65 overall, while the visitors enjoyed an 8-to-5 advantage in blocks.

Santa Barbara got out to favorable starts in games one and two, including taking a 7-0 lead out of the gates in the opening set. However, a stingy Irvine defense and numerous Gaucho errors would see the Anteaters take control with a 10-1 run midway through the set. UCI went on to win it 25-19, outhitting UCSB .244 to 0.98.

In set two, the Gauchos went ahead 10-5, but the Anteaters answered strong once again to take their largest lead of the set at 17-13 lead and again at 24-20. UCSB would face four game points in a row, taking all four and taking a 25-24 lead on a Ruddins kill. The rest of the set went Irvine's way once again though, as the visitors took it 29-27.

Down 2-0, UCSB wouldn't leave any windows open in set three. For the fourth time in three matches, senior defensive specialist Lexi Rottman served at least eight times in a row. Set three saw her serve a season-best 11 times in a row as UCSB jumped out to a 13-2 lead. Rottman had three aces in the set, finishing with four on the night. The Gauchos hit at a .542 clip, compared to .143 for Irvine, eventually winning their only set of the night, 25-11.

Rottman now has 11 aces over her last three outings, moving her into fourth in the Big West in aces per set (0.39). That's one spot ahead of Ruddins, who had three aces of her own to move into third in the conference (0.40 SA/S).

Freshman Olivia Lovenberg finished with 48 assists (12 A/S) to go along with seven digs and two kills. Middle blockers Nicole Omwanghe and Rowan Ennis added six kills each, hitting at .714 and .250 clips, respectively.

The Gauchos will look to get back to their winning ways when they travel to UC Riverside on Friday (7:00 pm) and Cal State Fullerton on Saturday (5:00 pm) for their conference road-openers.