Defense Shines as UCSB Downs LBSU for Third Straight Win

Lindsey Ruddins (Photo by James Colon)
Lindsey Ruddins (Photo by James Colon)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – For the third straight match, the Ruddins sisters led the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team in kills. And, for the third straight time, the Gauchos came away with the win, downing Long Beach State in four sets, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-22.

"It was a hard-fought, team win," head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "It was two really good teams going at each other tonight. We played very composed in the key points and the key moments and that made the difference for us."

As per usual, redshirt junior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins finished with 24 kills on a conference season-high .317 hitting percentage. It was the 13th time in 16 matches this season that she ended up with a match-high in kills. Freshman Gigi Ruddins had 10 kills (.259), reaching double-figures for the second straight outing.

The story of the night though was written on the defensive end. In a match filled throughout with long, electrifying rallies, UCSB recorded a season-best 80 digs, the most in their last 40 contests dating back to last season.

Libero Emilia Petrachi was at her best, posting a remarkable 28 digs (7.00 D/S), good for the second-highest total of her senior season and tied for the fifth-most in her career. For the fifth time this year, four Gauchos ended their night with at least 10 digs, also tying a season-high. That included the elder Ruddins (12) along with freshmen Zoe Fleck (14) and Olivia Lovenberg (11). Fleck has now reached double-digit digs in three of her last four outings, as she tied a career-best with 14 scoops.

Clutch defensive efforts down the stretch were the difference over the opening two sets, which were both separated by just two points, 25-23. Never separated by more than three points, the opening frame would go the Gauchos way, following 15 ties and three lead changes. After going down 22-21, UCSB ended the set on a 4-1 run with three kills coming from Lindsey Ruddins, including the clinching point.

Santa Barbara got out to a much faster start in set two, taking a 12-7 lead off a ball handling error by Long Beach State. However, the 49ers would reel off five straight points to tie things up at 12-12, eventually pulling out the tight win to tie things at one set apiece.

In game three, UCSB would shut Long Beach's offense down, outhitting the visitors .205 to .065, the widest margin of any set on the night. After jumping out to a 10-2 lead, the Gauchos cruised to a 25-17 win.

With their backs against the wall, the 49ers found themselves in good shape to force a fifth set, leading 20-17 late on. However, another LBSU ball handling error – its 10th of the night – started an 8-2 Gaucho run to close out the match. UCSB comparatively finished just two ball handling errors. Kills by Rowan Ennis and Gigi Ruddins would put a cap on things, giving UCSB its second three-match win streak so far in 2018.

"We're starting to play more consistent and we're doing a nice job of making adjustments on the fly," said Lantagne Welch. "We do have a couple of young people on the court and I think they're growing with each match. It's a combination of a lot of things, but everybody's pushing to give a little more each time out."

Lovenberg tallied 45 assists (11.25 A/S) on the night, reaching that mark for the ninth time through her first 16 career matches. She and Lindsey Ruddins notched their sixth and 10th double-doubles of the year, respectively.

Torre Glasker tallied eight kills, five digs and two blocks in her first action following a two-match absence. Rowan Ennis added eight kills (.286) of her own.

The Gauchos will play the second of four straight at home tomorrow night against UC Davis at 7:00 p.m. as they seek their second four-match win streak of September.