Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Senior opposite hitter Gina Tuzzolo’s 13 kills were not enough to beat UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night as the Gauchos ended the Rams’ three game win streak in five sets.
The Rams turned the tide on the Gauchos in the fifth set as junior outside hitter Paula Neciporuka logged two kills and redshirt-senior middle blocker Kat Young added one more to take an 8-6 lead.
UCSB tied it back at eight before senior middle blocker Jasmin Sneed sparked a 3-0 scoring run, forcing the Gauchos to call a timeout. The Rams led 11-9, just four points from winning the match.
The Gauchos outscored the Rams 6-3 to close the set and win 15-13.
“The girls battled but we came up short and that’s what happened a couple times during the match,” coach Jody Rogers said. “We dug ourselves in holes and we couldn’t get out of it and when you play a great team, sometimes it’s very difficult to get out of those holes.”
The Rams made their presence known early, going on a 5-0 scoring run to take a four point lead in the first set.
Moments later, the Gauchos outscored the Rams 9-2 to take a three point lead, forcing VCU to take its first timeout.
After the timeout, the Rams stormed back outscoring UCSB 7-1 to take a three point lead and force the Gauchos to take a timeout.
UCSB used a 4-0 scoring run late in the first set to pull within two of the Rams, so Rogers burned her final timeout of the opening set.
The Gauchos used their momentum and closed the set outscoring the Rams 5-1, taking the first set 25-23.
It was the first time the Rams trailed in a match the entire weekend.
The Rams fell behind early in the second set, trailing by as many as four points. The black and gold came back to tie the set at 12, but did not take the lead in the set until it was 21-20.
“That’s the character of the players,” Rogers said of the Rams’ comeback in the second set. “They battle, they work hard everyday and they’re just going to have to take the bumps and bruises of winning and losing.”
The Rams used a 5-0 scoring run to take the lead and the second set 25-21.
Tuzzolo logged six of her 13 kills in the second set.
“Gina’s amazing,” Rogers said of Tuzzolo. “She gets better when the game gets more in the crunch time. She’s always been that type of player for us.”
The Newport News, Virginia, native picked up where she left off in the third set, logging three kills within five points for the Rams to put VCU up by seven midway through the set.
The Rams outscored the Gauchos 4-2 to close the set and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
UCSB opened the fourth set taking a four point lead, 5-1. The Rams slowly whittled the lead to as few as two points until the Gauchos jumped back in front 14-8.
The Rams surged back late in the set, outscoring UCSB 6-0 to tie it at 21 a piece. UCSB closed the door on VCU in the set by outscoring the Rams 3-0 to win it 25-22.