Gauchos Begin Four-Match Road Trip at No. 12 Cal Poly This Friday

Gigi Ruddins (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Gigi Ruddins (Photo by Jeff Liang)
• The Schedule
Friday, October 12, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. PDT
UC Santa Barbara (12-7, 4-3) at No. 12 Cal Poly (16-1, 6-0)
at Mott Athletics Center in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
All-time record vs. Mustangs: 49-30
Record in Lantagne Welch era: 5-5
Streak vs. CP: Lost 2
Last meeting: L, 3-1 (11/3/17 @ CP)
• UCSB Sweeps CSUN, Falls to Hawaii in Five
UC Santa Barbara (12-7, 4-3) cruised to its second sweep of Big West play last Tuesday against CSUN, outhitting the Matadors .283 to .167 led by redshirt junior Lindsey Ruddins' 17 kills. Three nights later, the Gauchos took a talented Hawaii team to five sets for the first time since 2014, but fell short 15-10 in the final set. In what was a defensive struggle throughout, senior Emilia Petrachi paced both sides with 29 digs, and both teams finished with season-lows in hitting percentage with at least 30 attacking errors apiece.
• Petrachi Breaks All-Time Digs Record
The story of the night last Tuesday was the record-setting milestone of Emilia Petrachi, who surpassed Leah Sully for the program's all-time digs record with her eighth dig of the night in the set two. Playing in her 102nd and 103rd consecutive matches this past week, the unflappable libero went on to finish with 15 and 29 digs, giving her 1,779 for her career and moving her into No. 5 all-time in Big West history. She has now led her team in digs in an astounding 87 times in her career (84.5% of total matches) and has had double-figure digs on 91 occasions. Petrachi – who owns three Big West Defensive Player of the Week awards this year – currently leads the conference in digs per set (4.82) and total digs (357), but she has been on another level during league play, averaging a Big West-leading 5.71 digs per set.
• Look Out Below!
Outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins has refused to take her foot off the gas pedal this season, currently ranked second in the nation in kills per set (5.39), fourth in the conference in aces per set (0.39) and 15th in both hitting percentage (.271) and digs per set (2.92). With 16 kills against Hawaii last Friday, she increased her career total to 1,343, moving past Heather Collins (1991-93) for No. 10 all-time at UCSB. Ruddins has three Big West Player of the Week awards this season and is one of just 12 players in conference history to have won the award seven times.
• Blue-Green Rivalry: Part 1
After four straight at the Thunderdome, the Gauchos are set to play six of their next seven away from home, beginning with the No. 12 ranked Mustangs this Friday at 7:00 p.m. At 16-1 overall and a perfect 6-0 during conference, Cal Poly is out to its best start since 1985. The teams have had an even 5-5 split since the beginning of the Nicole Lantagne Welch era in 2013, but the Mustangs claimed both matches last season in four sets. Junior outside hitter Torrey Van Winden is dynamite on offense, leading the Big West in hitting percentage (.369) and sitting exactly 100 kills behind Ruddins with 299 on the year, good for second.
• Middle Blocker Mania
Both of UCSB's top middle blockers have gotten hot offensively over the past two weeks. Junior Charlie Robinson had the most prolific scoring night of her career, shattering her previous-best with 22 kills (.526) to go along with five blocks against UC Davis on Sept. 29.  The only other middle blockers to come close to that mark during the Lantagne Welch era (since 2013) are Phoebe Grunt and Rowan Ennis, both of whom recorded one 17-kill outing apiece during the 2016 season. Speaking of Ennis, she enjoyed a career-high .625 hitting percentage in the win over CSUN last Tuesday before tallying a season-high 12 kills against Hawaii. Robinson comes in at 5th in the conference in hitting percentage (.331), while Ennis is currently 9th (.296).
• Sweet September
UCSB began the year 10-5 overall, tied for its best start to a campaign since 2009.  That marked the second time in three years that the Gauchos had 10 wins at that point of the season.
• Defense, Defense, Defense!
UCSB's defense has shined thus far during Big West play, as the Gauchos have racked up 518 digs and 18.50 D/S, both conference-leading marks. The closest team hasn't even surpassed 400 digs to this point, with second-ranked Hawaii totaling 391 digs. Santa Barbara had zero 80-dig performances through its first 15 contests of 2018, but has hit that mark three times over its last four outings. UCSB's 102 digs against UC Davis on Sept. 29 were the most of the Lantagne Welch era and just two shy of the program's all-time top-10.
• What A Difference A Year Makes
While Lindsey Ruddins' offensive dominance has persisted this year, there have been a few differences. For one, her attempts have gone down slightly from a record-setting 15.18 per set in 2017 to 14.38 this season, while her hitting percentage has improved from .265 to a career-best .271. More importantly though is the fact that she has had significantly more help on offense this season compared to last. Over 28 matches last year, excluding Ruddins, there were 17 double-digit kill efforts and just one Gaucho averaging at least 2.00 K/S. Through 19 contests this season, there have been 21 double-digit kill performances and three other Gauchos averaging at least 2.00 K/S. That includes Torre Glasker (2.33 K/S), Robinson (2.08) and Gigi Ruddins (2.05).
• Weekly Award Dominance
After earning their third weekly honors of 2018 two weeks ago, Lindsey Ruddins (7) and Emilia Petrachi (8) extended their already firm grasp over the program records for Big West Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week. UCSB has dominated the awards thus far, winning a conference-leading eight of the first 21 this season.
• Fantastic Freshman
Freshman setter Olivia Lovenberg finished with career-highs of 62 assists and 13 digs against UC Davis on Sept. 29, the former being good for the most of any Big West player in 2018. Since bursting onto the scene with back-to-back Big West Freshman of the Week awards to open her career, Lovenberg has not stopped leading the conference this season in both assists per set (11.08) and total assists (820) by a wide margin. Her assist average currently ranks 24th in the nation. She is on pace for 1,208 assists this season, which would make her just the second Gaucho to cross the 1,000 assist mark during the Lantagne Welch era.
• Serve's Up
Santa Barbara's serving has been one of the most prolific in the nation this year, currently leading the Big West at 1.65 aces per set overall. That can be attributed to the fact that three Gauchos currently make up the conference's top-6 for individual aces. Lindsey Ruddins ranks third with 29 (0.39 SA/S), fresh off a season-high of five against CSUN. Lexi Rottman sits 5th with 22 (0.34 SA/S), and Torre Glasker comes in at No. 6 with 20 (0.30 SA/S). In the Gauchos' win over Montana on Sept. 14, Rottman finished with the most aces per set (2.33 SA/S) in the Big West this season. It was both the second-highest aces per set average and the second-most total aces for a single match in UCSB's rally scoring history. 
The Gauchos will play their only ESPN3 matchup during conference play when they travel to face UC Irvine on Nov. 8 at 7:00 p.m.