Lewis, Omwanghe Shine, but UCSB Falls to No. 17 Cal Poly in Home Return

Megan Lewis (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)
Megan Lewis (Photo by Jeilo Gauna)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Playing at home for the first time in nearly a month Friday night, the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team fell to No. 17 Cal Poly, 25-18, 25-23, 25-19.

The Gauchos (14-10, 6-6) had their best shot to steal a game in set two, erasing a late six-point deficit thanks in large part to the play of freshmen Megan Lewis and Gigi Ruddins, who combined for 10 kills in the set. After things were tied at 23-23 though, the Mustangs (21-2, 11-1) would claim the final two points.

Lewis ended her night with a Big West career-high 11 kills, tying Lindsey Ruddins for team-high honors.

Defensively, sophomore middle blocker Nicole Omwanghe was stellar at the net once again, recording a match-high five blocks (2.67 B/S). Senior Emilia Petrachi provided her usual defensive prowess at libero, leading all players with 17 digs. Junior Torre Glasker posted 11 digs.

After tallying 14 blocks over first 13 appearances this season, Omwanghe has had at least five in each of her last three outings, moving her into a tie with Rowan Ennis for the team-high in blocks per set (0.80). Omwanghe's 19 blocks over her last three are the most of any Gaucho in any three-match span this season.

UCSB got out to a solid start in the opening set, taking an 8-6 lead off a block by Ennis and Lindsey Ruddins. However, some missed opportunities would see the opposition take control from there, as Cal Poly embarked on a 10-3 run. Both teams had their lowest respective hitting percentages in the first set, but 10 UCSB attacking errors compared to the Mustangs' four gave Cal Poly the edge, .200 to .025, en route to a 25-18 win.

In set two, Lewis provided the spark after entering the match for the first time with Santa Barbara trailing 4-3. The Gauchos embarked on a 4-0 run, including three kills from the freshman. Several points later, one of the longest rallies of the night would result in an Ennis kill and a 9-6 UCSB advantage, sending the Thunderdome crowd into a frenzy.

Lewis picked up a kill on five of her first seven attempts, as the Gauchos didn't record an attacking error until midway through the set. Her 11 kills over just two sets (5.5 K/S) saw her enjoy her biggest offensive night since posting 12 kills against Texas Tech back on Sep. 7.

UCSB's late 7-1 run in the second set consisted of three blocks for Omwanghe, but a Gaucho blocking error and a Cal Poly block eventually clinched the set in the visitors' favor. The Gauchos' offense was at its most efficient (.229) in game two, but so was the Mustangs' (.333).

Santa Barbara would again hold an early two-point lead in the third and final set, 6-4, before Cal Poly took command with seven unanswered.

Freshman setter Olivia Lovenberg finished with 34 assists, five digs and a conference-high three kills. She now has 1,030 assists on the season, joining Hannah Juley (1,055 assists, 2016) as the only Gaucho setters to cross the 1,000 assist mark during the Lantagne Welch era.

The Gauchos will head back on the road next weekend for their final two contests away from home, starting with an ESPN3 matchup with UC Irvine next Thursday, Nov. 8. Two nights later, they head to UC Davis for their 2018 road finale.