Dec. 4, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - St. Mary's rallied from a two-games-to-none deficit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, defeating the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team 24-26, 22-25, 25-20, 25-14, 15-13.
The Gauchos, who were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006 and their 27th overall, finish the season at 22-8. UCSB, which had won six previous matches in five sets, lost for the first time all season after taking a 2-0 lead.
The defeat is somewhat reminiscent of the last time UCSB played in the tournament - in 2006 at BYU - when the Gauchos also lost after leading 2-0. No. 21 St. Mary's improves to 23-4 and will play in the second round on Saturday night at Stanford.
"Even though we lost, I thought in general, we ended on a good note," said senior Rebecca Saraceno, who led the Gauchos with 18 kills. "I don't think this was our best game and they took advantage of the things we weren't controlling."
After rallying in the first set and capturing the second set, UCSB faltered in the third. Tied 12-12, the Gauchos watched as St. Mary's went on a 5-2 run and although UCSB made it 17-16 on one of their six service aces, the Gaels scored eight of the final 11 points to make it 2-1.
"We knew they were capable of coming back," UCSB head coach Kathy Gregory said.
The Gauchos stopped dominating offensively, hitting a combined .000 in sets three and four combined and swung at a .100 clip for the entire match. UCSB committed 37 hitting errors and also had seven service errors.
"Where we lost the game was offensively," Gregory said. "We made too many errors."
Despite that, UCSB rallied in the fifth set. Trailing 9-3, the Gauchos brought the game to 13-11 on a Saraceno kill and then made it 14-13 on another kill by Saraceno, the Big West Player of the Year.
Alas, it was not to be as Shannon Lowell, an all-West Coast Conference player, finished the Gauchos off with a kill.
Lily Lopez and Stacey Schmidt each had nine kills while Kasey Kipp added seven. Leah Sully had a career-high 20 digs while Chelsey Lowe had 18 and Saraceno added 17, for her 15th double-double of the season.
However, Saraceno had 64 attempts and the next-highest was Schmidt with 24, allowing St. Mary's to focus on the senior from Redondo Beach, Calif.
"They were camping on her," Gregory said. "We needed a little more balance."
UCSB is now 21-27 in its NCAA Tournament history.
UCSB trailed 20-14 in the first set, forcing Gregory to call a timeout. Whatever the legendary coach said definitely worked. The Gauchos finished the first set on a 12-4 run after the defense came together. Dana Vargas had a huge solo block moments after Quinn Williams, Lily Lopez and Kasey Kipp teamed up for another block.
Leah Sully served three straight aces, Saraceno had a pair of kills and Kipp finished it with a step-out spike, giving UCSB a 1-0 advantage.
UCSB Athletics is proud to introduce GKids - its new official kids club! GKids members will receive a free GKids t-shirt, free admittance to tons of Gaucho games, opportunities to be ball boys and girls at games, a special birthday greeting from Olie (the new GKids mascot) and much, much more! For more information on GKids, or to become a member, please click here.
About the Gaucho Fund (G-Fund for short)
The program was launched as part of the Dare to Be Great strategic plan and is UCSB Athletics' annual giving program to provide vital funding support for scholarships, academic success and leadership development for Gaucho student-athletes. The Gaucho Fund is the anchor to the Dare to Be Great campaign. For more information on Dare to Be Great, please click here.