Gauchos Get Revenge, Knock Off LBSU 3-1

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

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team topped Long Beach State by a score of 3-1 on Friday night, avenging a Sept. 30 road loss to the 49ers and getting back to .500 in league play. Set scores were 25-23, 18-25, 25-16, 27-25. 

Sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins was the top performer for UCSB (5-15, 4-4 Big West) with a match-high 27 kills and 16 digs, her seventh double-double of the year. Freshman middle Nicole Omwanghe added 11 kills on .450 hitting while sophomore middle Charlie Robinson chipped in eight kills on .312 hitting. 

"We passed really poorly the last time we played them, and we started off in a similar fashion tonight," said UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "Credit to our team though, we really improved in that department as the match went on and ended up taking care of our end of the court as far as passing and serving."

A number of Gauchos were big contributors in the serve and pass game. Junior libero Emilia Petrachi led all players with 21 digs, while sophomore outside Chloe Allen had 13 digs of her own. Senior defensive specialist Sydney Bast, appearing in her first match since sustaining a knee injury on Sept. 16, gave the team a huge shot in the arm with solid serving throughout the contest. 

"Syd was just cleared today so obviously didn't have a lot of practice time, but we knew we could go to her," said Lantagne Welch. "She really provided us with a spark, and that's what senior leaders do. She was really clicking in all phases of the game tonight."

With the loss, Long Beach State dropped to 5-15, 3-6 on the year. 

Ruddins was the catalyst for UCSB's set one win, posting eight kills in the frame, twice as many as any other player on the floor. The Gauchos actually dug themselves out of a pretty large hole in the first, with LBSU libero Rachel Nieto serving the visitors into an early 9-4 lead. UCSB slowly but surely chipped away at the deficit, eventually taking its first lead of the set at 18-17 as part of a 5-0 run with Petrachi at the service line. That set up a photo finish down the stretch, with neither team sustaining a long run in the late stages of the game. Ultimately, it was Ruddins who ended up being the hero for the Gauchos, but this time as a blocker and not a hitter. Tied at 23-23, Ruddins got excellent reads on sets to the right side on two consecutive plays, notching a pair of blocks solo to end it. 

LBSU stepped up its defensive game in the second set, limiting UCSB to a -.054 hitting percentage and never allowing the hosts to get into an offensive rhythm. The Gauchos actually recovered from another early disadvantage in the frame, shaking off a five-point deficit to get within one at 13-14 and force a 49ers timeout, but the visitors responded with an 11-5 run of their own to tie the match at one apiece. With six kills, Hailey Harward was LBSU's offensive leader in the equalizing set. 

The Gauchos returned the favor after the halftime break, authoring a red-hot run late to claim the third set. Leading by just one at 16-15, UCSB would win nine of the final 10 points of the set to re-establish its lead. Most of the damage came from the serving of Bast, who forced the 49ers into a trio of attack errors while also notching a service ace as part of the run. Ruddins capped off the streak with an off-balance shot that found the back right corner to clinch the set. Freshman middles Kjia Rivers (four kills on five swings) and Omwanghe (three kills on three swings) were also huge parts of the Gauchos' success in the third. 

UCSB kept it rolling in the fourth, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and then maintaining a multi-point cushion until back-to-back blocks from Emma Kirst and Simkova brought the 49ers within one at 23-22. While that late 49ers momentum made it interesting, the Gauchos were able to stay ahead thanks to a pair of kills from Omwanghe that set up match points. Though it took two tries, UCSB sealed the victory with a Ruddins kill off the block from the back row, her 10th of the frame. 

The Gauchos will look for their third straight win tomorrow night, hosting CSUN at the Thunderdome at 7:00 p.m.