Saturday was the last match of the regular season and the UC Santa Barbara Women’s Volleyball team (27-3) celebrated their six seniors wrapping up time in The Thunderdome.
After three sets, it was the Gauchos who prevailed, finishing their final match at home with scores of 25-19, 25-19, 25-23. With this win, the Gauchos went undefeated in The Thunderdome, winning all 12 of their matches on their home court.
“It was a good, clean sweep tonight,” UCSB coach Matt Jones said. “This is a match, from the RPI perspective, that was really important. So even though it was a celebration of the seniors, we had a job to do tonight. I am really proud of this lineup.
“Nia has been out for the season due to injury, so it was great to get her back out there and hitting at a ridiculously high hitting percentage. Cam also did a great job for us as well. Those two seniors really stepped up for us tonight.
“Everyone else did what we needed them to do. We had a relatively clean match especially with a lineup we haven’t had much practice with so I am proud of the team’s efforts.”
The first set started in favor of the Highlanders as the Gauchos could not get into a rhythm. However, it didn’t take long for the home team to rebound.
Briana McKnight started the comeback with a three-point run before Macall Peed led the charge from the service line to tie the Highlanders.
This is when Santa Barbara pulled ahead. With Michelle Ohwobete putting up eight kills in this set alone, the Gauchos closed out the first set on top with a score of 25-19.
From there, UC Santa Barbara kept the momentum in their favor. Grace McIntosh’s 4-0 run at the start of the second set put her team in a good spot right from the start.
Even though the Highlanders tried to take over, they only got within one point. Tasia Farmer took the reins in this set as she put up five kills to push the Gauchos past the Highlanders with a score of 25-19.
Although this third set started pretty evenly, it didn’t last long. Michelle Zhao went on a four-point run early in the third set thanks to three blocks in a row by Andi Kreiling.
That didn’t keep the Highlanders from battling back. UC Riverside got within one of the Gauchos in hopes of keeping their season alive for a little bit longer. But Ohwobete was not having it.
As if there wasn’t any other way for her to end her career in The Thunderdome, she slammed down one more cross-court shot to give her team the 25-23 win in the third and final set.
Ohwobete led the offense for her final match in The Thunderdome. She racked up 14 kills while hitting at a .444 clip, only making two errors on the night. She also led the team in digs with nine.
McKnight wrapped up another double-digit night on offense. She tallied 10 kills while hitting at a .320 clip while also contributing six digs.
The middle blockers were some of the most efficient hitters in the match tonight.
Nia Correal started tonight for the Gauchos, earning six kills and no errors on 10 swings, totaling a .600 clip. She also added on three blocks to contribute to the team’s defensive efforts.
Andi Kreiling, on the other hand, wrapped up the regular season with five kills on six swings to equal a .833 hitting percentage while notching a team-high five blocks.
The Gauchos will head to Long Beach, California for The Big West Championships, going into the tournament as the No. 1 seed.
Their first opponent will be the winner of the quarterfinal match between No. 4 Long Beach State and No. 5 UC Irvine, which has yet to be announced. That match is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 24.
All matches in the tournament will be streamed on ESPN+.