Gauchos get it done on Gregory’s night

Having honored UCSB women’s volleyball head coach Kathy Gregory might have been enough, but the latest “Legend of the ‘Dome” continued to prove she’s a force to be reckoned with on the sidelines. Gregory’s Gauchos rallied from two games down to defeat No. 21 Long Beach State on Friday night in the Thunderdome.

It seemed impossible, considering the Gauchos lost the first epic set, 33-31 and then Long Beach powered through them in the second set, 25-16.

Gregory, however, had some magic up her sleeve. UCSB won the next three sets, 25-19, 25-21, 15-11 to knock off No. 21 Long Beach State and give Santa Barbara its fourth straight win. UCSB is now 9-6 overall and 3-0 in the Big West. The 49ers fall to 11-4, 1-1.

Heading the charge was senior Charlene DeHoog, who finished with 17 kills and 15 digs. She was helped by freshman Kara Sherrard, who also tallied a double-double with a career-best 15 kills and 10 digs and Stacey Schmidt, who proved nearly unstoppable at the net with 14 kills and a career-high four solo blocks to go with six block assists.

Helping them all out was senior setter Dana Vargas, who also notched a double-double with 54 assists and 15 digs

Even though the 49ers seemed to hold the advantage at the net, totaling 11.0 team blocks through the first two sets, the Gauchos were not deterred. After hitting just .196 in the first game and -.056 in the second, UCSB was deadly accurate in the third, batting .353 as DeHoog had six of her kills to keep the night going.

Everything went UCSB’s way in the fourth set as the Gauchos led the entire set and the Thunderdome began rocking. Schmidt had two kills, two blocks and a service ace – one of UCSB’s eight on the night – in the fourth and Sherrard had one of her three aces and four kills to lead the way. On top of it, the Gauchos held LBSU to a meager .057 hitting percentage while tallying three total team blocks.

Losing was not an option in the fifth set. Not on Gregory’s night. Not after coming back from two games down. Not on the Gauchos’ home court.

Schmidt almost single-handedly took the Gauchos to the win in the fifth set. In a span of eight consecutive Gaucho points, Schmidt had five kills, and a solo block while Sherrard served two aces to give UCSB a 9-2 lead. While the 49ers rallied to close it to 12-8, a pair of Long Beach attack errors and a kill from DeHoog finished off the comeback.

“This is the greatest night of my career,” an emotional Gregory said after the match. “This is the best win, to come back and to have the alumni see the kind of character and the kind of women we have, to never give up and give 100 percent. My job is to give hope every day and I’ve got to tell you, my team gave me hope tonight.”

UCSB hosts Cal State Fullerton on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.