The UC Santa Barbara women’s volleyball team pushed No. 21 Hawai’i to the brink on Friday night, but ultimately came up just short in a 3-2 (25-19, 22-25, 21-25, 25-18, 17-15) heartbreaking loss to the Rainbow Wahine at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UCSB (19-3, 9-2 Big West) took a 2-1 lead in the match, before Hawaii (18-3, 8-2 Big West) rallied to force a fifth set, and narrowly snagged the victory with a 17-15 win in the decisive frame. It is the first five set loss for the Gauchos this season, who had been 4-0 in such matches entering the evening.

Lindsey Ruddins poured in a season-high 27 kills for the Gauchos, who hit .218 (62-24-174) on the night while UH hit .222 (67-25-189). Santa Barbara edged the Rainbow Wahine in blocks (13-10) and digs (86-75), while UH tallied more aces (6-2), assists (64-55) and kills (67-62).

Despite getting off to a slow start, dropping the opening set 25-19 and hitting just .097, UCSB turned it around in a hurry thanks to Ruddins. The senior outside hitter, coming off a record-setting 12th career Player of the Week selection, recorded 13 of her 27 kills in the second set alone, helping the Gauchos even the match with a 25-22 win.

UCSB had its most efficient set in the third, hitting .419 (16-3-31) to jump out to a lead, but dropped the fourth set after hitting just .067 with six errors.

In the fifth, the teams traded points all the way down the stretch. The Gauchos last lead was 11-10, before UH had the advantage for the remainder. Torre Glasker and Ruddins came up with late kills to keep UCSB alive while Romoni Vivao and Deni Wilson teamed up for a big block to tie the match at 14-14.  Olivia Lovenberghelped to delay the outcome one more point with a kill to make it 15-15, but Hawaii put down the next two, capped off by an ace to finish the comeback.

Tallulah Froley tied her career-high with 16 kills on .294 hitting. Ruddins added 14 digs to give herself a double-double while Vivao also finished with a double-double with 13 digs to go along with her 21 assists. Zoe Fleckpaced the team with 24 digs and Glasker also reached double figures with 13. Lovenberg led the way with 25 assists. Rowan Ennis led UCSB with eight blocks. Wilson had a strong game as well with five kills and five blocks.

UH was led by 19 kills from Hanna Hellvig, a 10-kill, 9-block outing from Amber Igiede, and a 33-assist, 16-dig double-double from Norene Iosia.

UCSB continues its pivotal stretch in conference play next Saturday, Nov. 9 at Cal Poly.