Riding the momentum of a three match winning streak, the UCSB women’s volleyball team continued its hot run this past weekend with a pair of wins over Cal State Northridge and UC Davis.
For the second consecutive weekend, UCSB defeated the top team in the Big West, dropping Northridge to 16-4 overall and 6-1 in conference. The Gauchos improved to 10-8 overall and are tied for second in the Big West at 5-1 while UC Davis fell to 11-9 overall and 3-4 in league.
“We knew it was going to be a battle with [UC Davis] from the beginning,” senior outside hitter Leah Sully said. “We did get off to a bit of a slow start, but we’re kind of that comeback team.”
On Saturday, after beginning the game against Davis tied 3-3 in the first set, UCSB took over and went on a 17-6 run led by senior opposite Katey Thompson and sophomore outside hitter Ali Barbeau. However, despite winning the set by a score of 25-20, the Gauchos allowed the Aggies to go on a run of their own and gain momentum going into the next two sets.
Momentum in hand, UC Davis used strong blocking to keep up with UCSB in the second game. Trailing 17-18, the Aggies went on an 8-2 run to win the set 25-20. The next set got even worse for the Gauchos as Davis took advantage of numerous UCSB errors, and therefore took a 2-1 lead.
Needing a comeback, Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch made a crucial change by moving Sully from libero back to her favored position at outside hitter. The result was only positive for UCSB as Sully, who was already well on her way to a season high 25 digs, turned the game around with nine kills in the final two sets on an incredible .643 kill percentage.
“We were a little bit out of sorts; I felt like we needed a change and it was a gamble,” Lantagne Welch said. “[We] just jumped on it and it gave us a ton of momentum.”
The Gauchos stole momentum back from Davis in the fourth set, winning 25-20 to even the match. Entering the fifth set, UCSB finished off the Aggies 15-11, capped off by another winner by Sully.
Making a big difference for UCSB was Barbeau, who ended the game with 19 kills and six digs. Thompson and freshman middle blocker Phoebe Grunt led the defense with nine and eight blocks, respectively.
In Friday’s match against Northridge, the Gauchos came in confident after defeating No. 10 Hawaii just a week earlier.
UCSB made quick work of CSUN, using a balanced offensive attack to win the first two sets 25-22 and 25-19. The Gauchos then finished off the Matadors 25-15 for a 3-0 sweep.
“It’s extremely rewarding because it’s tough to play a match after you have such a big emotional win like [Hawaii],” Lantagne Welch said. “For us to come in so prepared and really take it to a team that’s been very hot, I’m very proud of the team for that.”
Freshman outside hitter Ali Spindt led the way with 12 kills and nine digs. She also hit at an impressive .375 kill percentage.
Next weekend, UCSB heads to UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of October 21st’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of the Daily Nexus.