Gauchos Fall to Illinois State in Season Opener

Chloe Allen (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Chloe Allen (photo by Eric Isaacs)

WACO, Tex. – UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball suffered a 3-0 defeat to Illinois State on Friday afternoon in the season opener for both teams at the Baylor Invitational at the Ferrell Center. Sets score were 25-19, 25-23, 25-15. 

Four separate Gauchos finished with double-digit digs, but the team struggled to sustain offensive momentum, finishing with a .036 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Chloe Allen was UCSB's top performer, leading all UCSB players with 10 kills and finishing one dig away from a double-double.

Senior defensive specialist Sydney Bast was the Gauchos' top defender with 16 digs, while junior libero Emilia Petrachi finished just behind her with 13. 

The Redbirds were led by Lexi Wallen, who had a 13-kill, 11-dig double-double. Jaelyn Keene finished one behind her with a dozen kills, while defensive specialist Courtney Pence led all players with 26 digs. 

Behind four kills from sophomore outside Lindsey Ruddins and three kills from freshman middle Nicole Omwanghe – making her official Division I debut – UCSB was able to hang close with Illinois State in the first set, leading by as much as four before the teams found themselves knotted at 16-all. From there, the Redbirds used a 4-0 run, featuring three of middle blocker Ali Line's five kills for the night, to create enough cushion to pull out the set. 

From there, the Redbirds used a 4-0 run, featuring three of middle blocker Ali Line's five kills for the night, to create enough cushion to pull out the game. 

Similar to the first, Illinois State used a late-game 5-1 run to take a commanding 24-19 lead. With Bast at the service line, the Gauchos reeled off four straight points to make it interesting at 24-23, but Wallen ended the Gauchos' hopes for a comeback with a set-clinching kill.

Allen had her best game of the night in the second, notching a team-high five kills. Three separate Gauchos (Bast, Petrachi, and junior setter Lexi Rottman) had five digs or more in the frame. 

Illinois State hit a solid .324 in the third to finish off the sweep. 

Besides Omwanghe, another pair of Gaucho freshmen made their NCAA debuts in the contest. Freshman middle blocker/right side Amanda Serex had a pair of digs in limited action, and freshman middle blocker Kjia Rivers had three kills on 10 swings to go along with one block. 

UCSB continues play in the Baylor Tournament on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. PDT against Florida State. The Gauchos wrap up the weekend with a 12 p.m. PDT contest against the host Bears on Sunday.