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UCSB Pulls Out a Gritty Triumph Against Cal State Northridge

Lindsey Ruddins of UCSB hits high for the Cal State Northridge block during the Gauchos’ three-set sweep at the Thunderdome. Click to view larger
Lindsey Ruddins of UCSB hits high for the Cal State Northridge block during the Gauchos’ three-set sweep at the Thunderdome. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team capped off a 3-0 week on Saturday night with a straight-sets victory over CSUN at the Thunderdome. Set scores were 25-17, 25-23, 25-19. 

The Gauchos – who improved to 6-15, 5-4 – had their work cut out for them, trailing in each set, including sizable deficits in the first two. Each time, the Gauchos battled back and pulled it out using last minute runs, avenging a Sept. 29 loss at the Matadome. CSUN dropped to 10-11, 4-5. 

"It being our third match of the week, we started off a little slow," said UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "But I loved the way we fought back. We consistently battled, and it ended up being a gritty win. We came through with our serving which allowed our blocking and defense to really shine through."

Sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins paced the Gauchos' offense with 20 kills. Junior setter Annie Hasselmann had a standout performance of her own, dishing out 28 assists, recording three kills on just four swings, and most importantly co-leading the team with seven blocks, including three solo efforts. She and freshman middle blocker Nicole Omwanghe, who had seven blocks herself, led a Gaucho blocking corps that outproduced CSUN 13-5 at the net.  

Hasselmann did an excellent job spreading the ball around in the first set, with four separate Gaucho hitters notching multiple kills while the team hit a solid .364 for the set. Even more important, Hasselmann took over from the service line at the end of the stanza, leading the Gauchos on a 7-0 run to close out the set. She notched a pair of aces during that run and forced the Matadors into another two attack errors.

The Gauchos saved some late-game magic for the second as well, nullifying a slow start and an eventual 20-15 deficit by storming back with a 10-3 run to close out the set and take a commanding 2-0 lead. Ruddins was a huge difference-maker in the frame, recording 10 kills on just 15 swings. Both she and Omwanghe had a pair of blocks as UCSB racked up four as a team for the set, which forced CSUN into a .000 hitting percentage after hitting north of .600 in the first half of the set.

Trailing by five late, it was junior setter Lexi Rottman who started the road back, serving UCSB to three straight points and reducing the deficit to 18-20. Ruddins kept up the momentum with strong serving of her own, ripping a number of hard serves just over the tape which eventually led to the Gauchos tying it at 22-22 when one of Ruddins' jump serves led to an iffy pass that led to a hitting error by CSUN's Aeryn Owens.

The Gauchos would take their first lead on the next point off another CSUN attacking error. Moments later, UCSB would capitalize on its first set point as Charlie Robinson and Hasselmann teamed up to block a Matador swing on the left side. 

Rottman's serving played a key factor early on in the third as well, as she peppered CSUN with hard-to-handle serves that led to three aces and a pair of Gaucho blocks as part of an 8-0 run that turned a 6-2 deficit into a 10-6 lead. Though the Matadors would punch back to make it close during the middle stages, UCSB once again caught fire late to create separation, putting together a 7-1 run off an 18-18 tie to claim the third with relative ease. Hasselmann ended the contest by winning a joust at the net on match point, the Gauchos' sixth block of the set. 

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