SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – It's never easy trying to slow down Lindsey Ruddins. On some nights though, there's simply no stopping her.
Friday evening at the Thunderdome Classic provided one of those nights, as the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team (4-3) defeated Texas Tech (6-3) in four sets, 29-27, 25-23, 18-25, 25-18. Ruddins' monstrous stat line in the Gauchos' home season-opener yielded season-highs across the board of 33 kills, 16 digs, four blocks and three aces.
"It was a great match against a very, very good volleyball team. It was fun to see us hold our composure and pull out a couple tight sets, which made a huge difference," head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "We know how Lindsey can take over a match. They were giving her quite a few openings, so we were going to go to her and it was effective. She played a tremendous role tonight and brought her A-game."
Relentless and efficient throughout, Ruddins was above a .400 hitting percentage for most of the match. She eventually settled at .357, another season-best. Crossing the 30-kill threshold for the third time in her career, Ruddins (8.5 K/S) tied Janine Sandell (Sept. 2, 2005 vs. Missouri State) for the second-most kills in UCSB's rally scoring history.
Also benefiting from the two-time All-American's dominance was defending Big West Freshman of the Week Olivia Lovenberg, who extended her lead atop the conference assist charts with a career-high 60 assists and eight digs.
"We're asking Olivia to do a lot and each week I feel like she's growing," said Lantagne Welch. "She found our hot hitters, we hit at a very high clip as a team, and I thought that she played an extremely solid match for us."
Lovenberg wasn't the only freshman to step up for the Gauchos. Outside hitter Megan Lewis had the best performance of her young career, finishing with a personal-best 12 kills and hitting at a highly-efficient .400 clip. Over the last two matches, Lewis has accumulated 22 kills (2.75 K/S) on a .347 hitting percentage, contributing to a pair of 3-1 Gaucho wins.
Libero Emilia Petrachi was stellar on the defensive end once again, finishing with 24 digs, her second-highest total of the year. The senior from Italy has reached 20 digs in five of seven matches this season.
Double-double machine Torre Glasker finished with 11 kills, 13 digs and a pair of aces.
"It was our first home game so everyone came out with a lot of energy," Ruddins said. "Everything just clicked tonight. Olivia was setting me really well tonight, so that definitely helped, but everyone did their job and played amazing."
A well-fought match on both sides, things could have easily gone the other way had the Gauchos not made big plays late in the opening sets. UCSB found itself down 21-17 in game one following a 5-1 spurt by the Red Raiders. The tandem of Lovenberg and Ruddins would take over from there, with at least one of the two registering a kill, assist or block on the Gauchos' next 12 points.
Three consecutive Lovenberg-to-Ruddins kills put UCSB up 24-23, and the Gauchos wouldn't trail again until set three. The lengthy first set eventually ended, 29-27, on a block by Ruddins and junior middle blocker Rowan Ennis. Returning from a one-match absence, Ennis finished with four kills and two blocks. UCSB opened with a blistering .429 hitting percentage, which was nearly matched by TTU's .386 clip. Ruddins had 10 kills, the most she's had in a single set this season.
The following game provided much of the same from Ruddins, as she registered eight kills, two blocks and an ace. Texas Tech trailed by five points on several occasions, but cut the deficit to as little as one at 21-20. Both teams traded points back-and-forth until a Red Raider attacking error ended the game in UCSB's favor, 25-23.
Set three saw Texas Tech enjoy its best hitting percentage (.419) of the night, while UCSB had its worst (.171). The Gauchos fell behind early, as the Red Raiders took it 25-18 to force a fourth set.
In game four, Ruddins took over once more with nine kills and a pair of aces. UCSB jumped out to leads of 9-3 and 23-14, getting the clinching point on junior middle blocker Charlie Robinson's seventh kill of the night.
OLÉ! Charlie Robinson puts away the kill & @UCSB_Volleyball close out Texas Tech in 4.— Big West Volleyball (@BigWestWVB) September 8, 2018
The #BWCAOTW trio:
�� Lindsey Ruddins �� 33k (.357) + 16d-3sa-4b
�� Olivia Lovenberg �� 60a-8d
�� Emilia Petrachi �� 24d#GoGauchos vs Sacred Heart (12PT) & Seton Hall (7pm) Sat. #PlayBig pic.twitter.com/mphP8iFUYF
UCSB returns to action tomorrow for two more matches to close out the 2018 Thunderdome Classic. The Gauchos will take on Sacred Heart at 12:00 p.m. looking for their third straight victory before closing out the weekend against Seton Hall at 7:00 p.m.