Resilient Gauchos Battle Back, Fall to FSU in Five at NIVC

Gigi Ruddins (Photo by Jeff Liang)
Gigi Ruddins (Photo by Jeff Liang)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Playing in its first postseason match since 2013, the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team fell to Fresno State in five sets in the NIVC First Round at UNLV's Cox Pavilion on Thursday evening, 25-23, 22-25, 25-16, 26-28, 15-11.

The Gauchos (17-12) dropped the first and third sets, but fought back both times to tie things up. A dramatic 4-1 surge to close game four extended their season, handing them a 28-26 win to force a decisive fifth set. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, the Bulldogs (22-10) would take control midway through the final set, eventually winning it 15-11.

UCSB was without its star outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins for the final two sets. She finished with 12 kills (.182) and seven digs.

Lindsey's younger sister Gigi Ruddins went on to lead all players with a career-high 18 kills. She put away eight kills in the fourth set alone to help send the match to five.

Middle blocker Rowan Ennis and outside hitter Torre Glasker also made an impact on offense, each finishing with 11 kills. Ennis was particularly effective in the opening two sets when she recorded nine of her 11 kills. She had six in set two, including the go-ahead kill to break a 16-16 tie and put the Gauchos up for good.

Lindsey Ruddins would see her final action of the season to close the third set. An attacking error on her final swing of the day gave the Bulldogs a 25-16 win in game three.

Playing without their most reliable offensive weapon, the Gauchos battled through a set four in which neither team held a lead larger than three points the entire way. UCSB answered three match points, thanks to kills by Ennis and Torre Glasker and a Bulldog service error. Gigi Ruddins would go on to score the clinching point, 28-26.

Santa Barbara held a 3-2 lead early in a set five which saw five ties. However, a pair of 4-1 runs midway through the set gave Fresno State leads of 9-6 and 13-8. The Bulldogs went on to clinch the match on a kill by Kava Durr.

Middle blockers Charlie Robinson and Nicole Omwanghe added seven and five kills, respectively. Robinson provided the Gauchos' set-winner in game two.

Defensively, four players reached double-figures in digs, led by senior libero Emilia Petrachi's 18. Freshman setter Olivia Lovenberg had 15 digs to go along with her 58 assists. Glasker and freshman Zoe Fleck had 14 and 11 digs, respectively. Omwanghe also finished with a team-high two blocks.

Petrachi ends her career with 1,977 digs, a program record. Lindsey Ruddins extended her career-high in kills to 587 for the year, the highest kill total for any Gaucho during the rally scoring era (since 2001). It also stands in the top-3 all-time in program history for a single season, surpassing Roberta Gehlke's career-high of 578 (1999) for the No. 3 spot.

UCSB's 17 wins this year were tied for the second-most since head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch took the helm in 2013. It was the third time the Gauchos have reached 17 wins since 2010.