A career night from redshirt freshman Tallulah Froley and yet another outstanding performance from senior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins proved to be exactly what the UCSB women’s volleyball team needed to defeat Texas State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Gauchos beat the Bobcats in four sets on Thursday inside Gregory Gymnasium with the scores consisting of 25-21, 25-21, 20-25, 25-14.
Froley finished with a career-high 18 kills and added three blocks while Ruddins notched a double-double with 18 kills and 13 digs as UCSB earned it’s first NCAA Tournament win since 2004.
Now 23-5 on the season as well, this is also the most wins in a single season for UCSB since 2004.
“It feels amazing, I am just really happy,” Froley said.
“We have never made the NCAA’s before and so we wanted to go out there and show everybody that Gaucho volleyball is a really good program.”
“This win just shows all the work we put in as a program. As players and as our coaches who do an amazing job. We had something to prove tonight, that we belong here in this tournament and I am so proud of everyone,” Ruddins said.
While Froley and Ruddins were in the spotlight, it actually was a total team effort on Thursday. Freshman middle blocker Deni Wilson was everywhere on the court totaling five blocks as well as earning nine kills.
“She was amazing. She is incredible and I am so proud of her. She has killed it in every game and tonight was a career night for her. She was there for every block and was constantly playing well,” Froley said.
Rowan Ennis also had five blocks while libero Zoe Fleck was a defensive specialist out on the court tonight piling up her second-highest dig total of the season with 26.
Offensively, UCSB outhit the Bobcats .245 (61-25-147) to .169 (46-21-148) and had superb play from setters Olivia Lovenberg and Romoni Vivao.
Lovenberg had 30 assists while Vivao added 19 and also tallied 11 digs for a double-double performance of her own.
“At this level, these are all good teams and so you need a full-team effort and that is exacly what we got from all across the board,” head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said.
This was Lantagne Welch’s first NCAA Tournament win as UCSB’s head coach, improving to 1-1.
“There were definitely some nerves coming out, but we started out passing really solid and we had an idea of what defense they would use and we were able to exploit that with our speed and just go on from there,” Lantagne Welch said.
The Bobcats defense was a little tricky at the start for Santa Barbara. Because they use a rover, UCSB had to hit a lot more shots deeper instead of shallow.
As a result, the first frame saw 10 ties and four different lead changes as the two teams traded runs throughout.
Tied at 20-20, however, Froley and Ruddins combined to earn three straight kills to go up 23-20. After a Texas State side out, Wilson slammed home a kill, then combined with Ruddins on a block to give UCSB the set win.
“(The defense) is definitely different and they are a really strong team, but our coaches did a great job of scouting them so we simulated it in practice and after a while, we settled in and were able to play our game,” Ruddins said.
The second set started out similar but a 7-2 run by Texas State midway through the frame gave them a commanding 19-13 lead. Lantagne Welch called a timeout to settle her team down.
It turned out to be the perfect call as, after the timeout, UCSB rallied off six straight points, which included two kills from senior Torre Glasker, to tie the match at 19-19.
Tied at 20-20, Glasker showed her toughness from the service line earning two aces to give UCSB a 23-20 lead.
“We just needed to get one side out and then stay the course. We found some grit and showed some fight. I never felt like that set was out of reach and then once we started to turn the tide there, we showed our resiliency,” Lantagne Welch said.
A kill from Wilson then another by Froley gave UCSB a 2-0 advantage. Froley was spectacular in the first two sets tallying 11 kills with no errors and hitting at a clip of .600.
“We knew that they were going to try to block and angle and hitting line is my favorite shot, so I was really just going out there. We had nothing to lose, it was all or nothing,” Froley said.
Down 2-0, the Bobcats showed some grit of their own again jumping out to a lead and eventually leading 19-13 again. This time around, Texas State would take care of business and stay alive in the match with a 25-20 win.
By the time the fourth game came around, however, UCSB took complete control of the contest.
Trailing 1-0, the Gauchos scored six unanswered after a Fleck ace with kills from Ruddins and Froley, while the Bobcats committed a trio of attacking errors.
They then used a 9-0 run up 10-6 to take a 13-point lead and cruised to victory from there, booking their ticket to the second round.
“It was our time to do this. We were in the lead up two sets. We knew we were going to win the game, we knew we weren’t going to let up. We were the better team and we were going to show them that. That was the best push we have ever given and it was amazing,” Froley said.
With the win, UCSB will now move on to face No. 2 seeded Texas, who is the host of this bracket.
The Longhorns swept Albany (NY) on Thursday by set scores of 25-9, 25-16, 25-15. They hit an outstanding .514 clip as a team and combined for 12 blocks.
Micaya White had a game-high 13 kills for Texas with two other Longhorns registering double-digit kills.
Although the Gauchos are the underdogs in this contest, the momentum from the Texas State win will be key tonight.
“We are going to be confident throughout the whole game. We just had a phenomenal game and if we can do that again, we can pull through to the third round,” Froley said.
Another key for UCSB will be to continue serving tough. The Gauchos committed just two errors on Thursday and their tough serving made it hard for the Bobcats to get many opportunities.
“We got to serve them off the court and then do our thing on offense. Texas has a ton of great athletes so we have to give them some trouble and really put pressure on them from the service line,” Lantagne Welch said.
The match will begin at 5 p.m. today at Gregory Gym and will be streamed on the Longhorn Network.