The Aggies knew they would have to fight for a victory with this weekend’s slate of Big West conference matches.
UC Davis matched up against second place Cal Poly Friday night and first place UC Santa Barbara Saturday night.
It was the tale of two different teams for the Aggies as UC Davis struggled to find any consistency against the Mustangs, but dominated the Gauchos both offensively and defensively en route to the victory.
With the weekend split, the Aggies are 13-7 on the season and 5-3 in conference play. UC Davis sits a game and a half behind first place Cal State Fullerton.
Friday – Cal Poly 3, UC Davis 1
No matter what sport one plays, errors will ultimately lead to a loss.
The Aggies were no exception as they struggled against rival Cal Poly, committing 30 errors on the evening.
“Cal Poly is a good team and you can’t give good teams opportunities like we did,” coach Jamie Holmes said. “We’ll have to work on minimizing the errors at practice.”
UC Davis took the first set 27-25 behind strong play from freshman setter Jenny Woolway who had 10 assists in the opening set.
However 26 of the 30 UC Davis errors came in the next three sets, and the Mustangs would take advantage. Cal Poly cruised to the victory, winning the next three sets 25-15, 25-23, 25-18.
Saturday – UC Davis 3, UC Santa Barbara 2
Already down two sets to none, the Aggies were looking down the barrel of the gun as the Gauchos held a seemingly commanding 19-14 lead.
Kayla Varney changed everything.
The senior captain’s kill turned the momentum of the game a full 180 degrees as the Aggies stormed back to take the third set and eventually the match.
“I really don’t know what the turning point in the game was,” Varney said. “We just started celebrating more and came together as a team. We’re all really excited.”
Varney especially has good reasons to be excited. The Murrieta, Calif. native led UC Davis in kills and digs for the match.
Holmes was just as excited about the big victory for the Aggies.
“‘Wow’ is what I can say about that one,” Holmes said. “I’m really proud of our kids and their composure and demeanor on the court. It would have been pretty easy to throw in the towel during that third set, but we talk about never saying die and they showed that tonight.”
UC Santa Barbara jumped out to the two set lead as it put the Aggies in early deficits. UC Davis battled back in the first set to force extra play, but the Gauchos converted back-to-back kills en route to the 30-28 victory.
The second set was a similar story for UC Davis as it found itself in an early whole it couldn’t get out of. Again the Aggies battled back, but ultimately fell 25-21.
Varney’s spike midway through the third, however, sealed the momentum shift for the Aggies. The only time the score was tied in the fourth and fifth set was at 0-0. UC Davis dominated UC Santa Barbara both offensively and defensively en route to the victory.
“We made a significant line-up change tonight,” Holmes said. “We moved [Varney] out of the libero and put her on the outside. It really helped us in the match as our outsides hit for a very high percentage.”
Coming back from two sets down to the Gauchos was not an unfamiliar situation for the Aggies. UC Davis did the exact same thing last year against UC Santa Barbara.
“I don’t know if remembering last year helped too much in this match,” Holmes said. “In general, our kids did a good job serving and taking them out of system.”
Holmes believes the home crowd played like a seventh person on the court in the win over Santa Barbara.
“I’m so excited about how the crowd was tonight,” Holmes said. “I think that’s college athletics is all about cheering on your team and making the players on the court feel supported.”
UC Davis will have a quick turnaround as it will travel to take San Francisco tomorrow and have a throw back night of sorts Saturday night as it will take on UC Riverside at Hickey Gym.
JASON ALPERT can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.