The Northridge women’s volleyball team lost to the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara in three straight sets at the Matadome Tuesday night by scores of 25-18, 25-22 and 25-11.
The match, clocking in at just under 90 minutes, marks the third consecutive loss in the last four matches for the Matadors.
With the loss Northridge drops to 7-17 overall and 3-7 in the Big West, while UCSB improves to 19-5 overall and 9-3 in the Big West, momentarily tying them with UC Davis for the top spot in the Big West.
“I know Northridge is a tough, physical team, a good blocking team,” said UC Santa Barbara head coach Kathy Gregory prior to the first serve. “We’ll be watching for (Angela) Hupp…I expect it to be a hard fought match.”
The hardest part of the match was probably getting it to last longer.
The Gauchos came out of the gate with their saddles blazing scoring five unanswered points to open the first set. Northridge, trying out a new lineup, hit the court shaky and unable to find a comfortable rhythm.
The Matadors were able to rally behind back-to-back blocks by juniors Chelsea Johnson and Lynda Morales bring the score within one at 5-4. From then on Northridge would only lead at 9-8 before the Gauchos would start to pull away, creating a comfortable lead of at least five points.
UC Santa Barbara, a team not known for its blocking ability, was able to out-block Northridge 6.0-2.0 in the first set alone, the 25-18 set victory would put the Gauchos up one set to none.
“I thought Santa Barbara did an outstanding job,” said CSUN head coach Jeff Stork. “They blocked better than we thought they would or traditionally have against us.”
Set two started out in favor of the Matadors when they were able to take an early 5-2 lead, but after Morales was blocked off an attack attempt the Gauchos opened up an 8-2 run to take the lead at 10-7.
UCSB would keep a very comfortable lead holding Northridge under 10 points for five straight points. With the score at 24-14, the Gauchos only needed one more point to close the set.
But a Britney Graff kill would rocket the Matadors on an eight-point run to bring Northridge within two points. The momentum is short lived when senior outside hitter Angela Hupp is unable to control a dig, giving UC Santa Barbara the second set 25-22.
During the half Stork drastically rearranged the lineup, replacing freshman libero Monica McFarland with junior Siara Grayson. Graff, who has missed the last three matches due to a knee injury, was also kept in for the rest of the match.
“I was really excited because I was told that I wasn’t going to play front row tonight,” Graff said. “(Santa Barbara is) a good team, but we kind of beat ourselves. I’m not going to not give them credit, though. But we didn’t play to our potential.”
Set three started off balanced, with both teams taking turns to sideout. It wasn’t until the 13-9 mark, in favor of UCSB, did the Gauchos begin to take control.
With the score at 16-11 UC Santa Barbara went on a 9-0 run to bring the match to a close. Those nine points were made up of two Northridge hitting errors, three Gaucho blocks and only two UCSB kills.
Senior outside hitter Rebecca Saraceno led the Gauchos with eight kills, middle blockers Stacey Schmidt and Kasey Kipp each chipped in seven, Schmidt also had two aces. Libero Chelsey Lowe had a team high nine digs and junior setter Dana Vargas had 27 assists and four kills.
Brittany Williams and Morales knocked down eight kills apiece, Graff chipped in for seven of the team’s total 30 kills. Setter Sam Orlandini had 14 assists while Hupp had 13 and was held to just four kills.
The team was held to just nine total blocks for the night with UCSB totally 15 blocks.
“We didn’t play as a team, like we know how to,” Hupp said. “I’m happy (Graff’s) back, she stepped up tonight. It’s going to take an intense practice tomorrow, not physically, but emotionally…we need to have something that forces use to play together.”