Gauchos do it again in five-setter

IRVINE – The UCSB women’s volleyball team sure has a flair for the dramatic. Not only did the Gauchos play in their eighth five-set match on Friday night, they defeated their fourth Top-25 team.

Reigning Big West Player of the Week Rebecca Saraceno had 28 kills, one shy of her career-high, while tallying 13 digs for her 13th double-double this season to lead the Gauchos to a 14-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-22, 19-17 victory over No. 19 UC Irvine on Friday night.

Valuable? Obviously. Saraceno recorded seven of her kills in the fifth set, which followed a nine-kill fourth set. The senior outside hitter had eight kills in the second set. She tallied over 20 kills for the fourth straight match.


Irvine, which entered the match with only one loss in the Big West – to the Gauchos last month at the Thunderdome – falls to 16-4, 6-2. UCSB, which knocked off Irvine for the second time this season in five sets, improves to 15-5, 5-3. Of the five matches the Gauchos have played against teams who are ranked in the Top-25, UCSB is now 4-1. The Gauchos have also recorded two wins against teams receiving votes in the poll.

25% off team meals at MadisonsNot that everything went swimmingly. As a team the Gauchos hit just .150, never hitting over .200 in any of the first four sets. In the fifth, the Gauchos hit .326.

Even though the Gauchos were up by scores of 9-5, 13-9 and then 14-12 in the fifth set, UCSB couldn’t put the Anteaters away. The teams traded points until Saraceno knocked down the final two kills to secure the win.

Leah Sully was the only other Gaucho to record double-digit kills, as the freshman had 10. Chelsey Lowe tied her career-high with 26 digs, leading four Gauchos in double-digits in that category. Sully had 19 while setter Dana Vargas had 16. Vargas had 49 assists, as Lowe also added three service aces. Stacey Schmidt added nine kills and six block assists.

Irvine was led by Kari Pestolesi’s 22 kills and 20 digs, as she was one of three UCI players in double-digit kills.

Clearly the No. 1 option as she has been all season, Saraceno was set 88 times, but made the most of it with another impressive performance. Saraceno has been thrice named Big West Player of the Week and has tallied a National Player of the Week award.

Kathy Gregory, UCSB’s head coach, said “We turned it on in the fifth. Becca was a one-man wrecking crew.”

Santa Barbara will face UC Riverside on Saturday night at UCR’s Student Recreation Center. The Gauchos return home next Friday for a two-match homestand on Friday vs. Cal State Fullerton and Saturday against Long Beach State.