Gauchos Roll Past Cal State Fullerton 3-0

Emilia Petrachi (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Emilia Petrachi (photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara finished up its first weekend of Big West play in the best way imaginable, dominating Cal State Fullerton 3-0 (25-11, 25-19, 25-18) on Saturday night at the Thunderdome to give the team a perfect 2-0 mark in league action. 

About 24 hours after pulling off a sweep of another conference rival, UC Riverside, the Gauchos (3-11, 2-0) were even more in-sync against the Titans (4-11, 0-3), outhitting them .306 to .061. UCSB is now a combined 9-1 against CSF and UCR at home under fifth-year head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch.  

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins was UCSB's most prolific hitter against Cal State Fullerton, posting a match-high 22 kills on a season-best .450 hitting percentage. As was the case on Friday, freshman middle blocker Nicole Omwanghe performed well off the quick hit (eight kills on 15 errorless swings) while junior setter Annie Hasselmann was a constant threat to swing or dump off the pass, notching six kills for the evening on just 11 attempts. 

Offense wasn't the only area UCSB excelled in on Saturday though. Lexi Rottman matched a career-high with four aces to lead a dominant collective serving effort for UCSB, which tested the Titans' passing all night. Though the block numbers weren't gaudy, an effective soft block helped UCSB libero Emilia Petrachi notch 28 digs in the contest, over nine per set. For the week, Petrachi needed just six sets to accrue 47 digs. 

The Gauchos set the tone for the evening from the very first serve of the match, with Rottman floating in a serve in front of the Titan's back row for a first-point ace. Rottman's jump float would continue to haunt the Titans as she recorded two more aces as part of a match-opening 6-0 run for UCSB. By the next time the Gauchos' next server, Ruddins, was through, they found themselves with a commanding 11-1 lead. UCSB continued to play well throughout the first stanza, finishing with a .345 hitting percentage compared to CSF's -.045. Hasselmann (3-0-3) and Omwanghe (3-0-4) were particularly effective on the attack. 

"We came out really ready to play tonight, so when Lexi started us off with a bang with that service run, we were able to take off on that energy," said UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch, who recorded her 300th career victory in last night's sweep of UC Riverside. "We played with good tempo, hit at a high clip, and once again limited what the opponent was able to do. Good things happen when you're able to do that."

UCSB once again jumped out to a hot start in the second, grabbing an 8-3 lead on extended service runs from Rottman and Petrachi. Ruddins and Petrachi ended up taking over their respective departments, with Ruddins landing 10 kills in the frame while Petrachi patrolled the back row to the tune of nine digs. 

After the halftime break, Cal State Fullerton briefly enjoyed a lead but the Gauchos quickly retook momentum with a 6-1 run to make it 9-6 in the host's favor. Yet another dominant service run from Rottman later in the set, including her final ace of the night, enhanced UCSB's advantage from 11-10 to 15-10. A solid attack – UCSB hit .343 in the third – helped the Gauchos coast down the stretch, while any offensive momentum for CSF was stymied by Petrachi, who had 13 digs in the frame. 

UCSB resumes Big West action next week, traveling south to take on Cal State Northridge on Friday night before tackling Long Beach State in an ESPN3-televised match on Saturday night. Both are slated for 7:00 p.m. starts.