Over the past month and a half, the UCSB women’s volleyball had not been on the losing side of the scoreboard. There were scares, but never a loss.
That finally ended on Saturday as No. 19 Hawai’i rolled into Santa Barbara and handed the Gauchos a three-set loss with scores of 25-20, 25-22, 25-19.
“It really felt like we were intimidated early when we shouldn’t have been. We were almost afraid to hit near their block and so we made some uncharacteristic errors and it rattled us,” coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said.
“We were rattled. Things were going so well for us these past few weeks and then the adversity came and we didn’t respond within the match.”
The loss snapped UCSB’s previous 13-match win streak and was the first time this season the Gauchos were swept.
Moreover, it was an impressive win for Hawaii who had just lost in three sets to Cal Poly on Friday. The Gauchos will host the Mustangs next Saturday.
From the start, UCSB did not get off to its usual hot start. In the first set alone, Santa Barbara had six attack errors and shot just .056 from the field.
Keeping them in most of the first set was the fact that Hawaii was not playing that great either.
The Gauchos held an early lead at 11-7, but the Rainbow Wahine stormed to tie it at 13.
Hawai’i then used a 10-4 run with thanks to three kills from Hanna Hellvig and a pair from McKenna Ross. Leading 24-20, a kill from Ross, who had 12 on the night, gave the Rainbow Wahine the early advantage.
Hellvig led all scorers in this match with 14 kills.
“We just did not play our best defensively and they killed it,” senior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins said.
In the first set, Santa Barbara had just eight kills as a team with only Ruddins and redshirt freshman right side Tallulah Froley tallying two.
In the second set, Ruddins turned on the heat.
She would tally six of her 12 total kills in the second frame and got help from her sister Gigi Ruddins and junior middle blocker Rowan Ennis who each added three.
UCSB shot a much better .333 clip in the second set, but it would not be enough to stop Hawai’i who also saw its offense come alive.
UCSB kept it close throughout. The match was tied 11 times in the second set with the last time coming at 22-22 after a kill from Ennis.
A pair of kills from Ross and then an ace from Bailey Choy, however, sealed the second set for Hawai’i.
“Everyone felt that we needed to play better. We tried to come back but they are a really good team and they were killing it on offense and defense,” Ruddins said.
Down 2-0 is not something UCSB has faced often this season.
The Gauchos have been down 2-0 twice this season before Saturday.
The first was against Colorado which resulted in a four-set loss.
The second was against Pepperdine, which UCSB fought back from to win in five sets.
In order to help the team find some sort of momentum, coach Lantagne Welch flipped her setters. Instead of Olivia Lovenberg and Tallulah Froley starting the sets, she went with freshman Romoni Vivao and Tasia Farmer.
“We were trying to get a different serve receive from No. 10 (Norene Iosia) and we did and we were much more successful siding out on her serve,” Lantagne Welch said.
As Lantagne Welch alluded too, it worked early on.
Iosia’s usual float serve was countered with a little more aggression and it helped the Gauchos jump out to a 6-3 lead. Just like the first two sets, however, Hawai’i tough defense forced a litany of UCSB errors, as the offense never found its usual rhythm.
With the match tied at 13-13, the Rainbow Warriors went on a 7-0 run, and never looked back eventually taking the set with a block of Ruddins shot.
“They just played really solid and they did a nice job of making quality plays out of system and they were better out of system than we were,” Lantagne Welch said.
Hawai’i held UCSB to a season-low 34 kills and also held them to its fourth-lowest shooting percentage of the season with a .175.
Additionally, the eldest Ruddins was the only Gaucho with double-digit kills as she tallied 12. Her sister had seven as she continued to see more action while Froley was held to just five, her lowest total in her last 11 matches and she shot her worst percentage (.167) during that same span.
Setters Lovenberg and Vivao each tallied just 15 assists, a season-low for Lovenberg, as UCSB totaled just 33 assists tying its season-low mark as a team.
“The good thing is we control our own destiny. We had a slip up here and we had been playing great volleyball for so long that it was bound to happen at some point and unfortunately, we took the loss but we have plenty of opportunities in front of us,” Lantagne Welch said.
The one good news for the Gauchos is that they no longer have to worry about the pressure on maintaining a double-digit win streak.
Instead, it can regroup and hope for a better outcome in the coming weeks.
“For me, it doesn’t matter but for the team, they don’t have to think about a winning streak anymore and playing perfectly and being afraid to fail. We played like that tonight and now it is all about how you respond,” Lantagne Welch said.
UCSB will show its response as it hosts Cal Poly (13-5, 6-0) at 7 p.m. next Saturday.