The UCSB women’s volleyball team swept the competition last weekend, going 3-0 to win the Santa Clara Tournament. Ranked third in the Big West preseason polls, the Gauchos (5-4) entered the tournament with a 2-4 record, but left at above .500 for the first time since beating St. Mary’s in the first game of the season.

“It was good to be able to get back on the right track,” Head Coach Kathy Gregory said. “We improved in some areas — our passing, our blocking.”

UCSB held the Spartans to a .165 hitting percentage in the championship match, in which sophomore outside hitter Leah Sully’s 16 kills and 15 digs led the squad.

“The defense has always been the trademark of the Santa Barbara team,” Gregory said.

In the second game of the tournament on Saturday, the Gauchos faced Santa Clara. In the third set, UCSB trailed early 6-3 before sophomore hitter Kara Sherrard, senior right side Stacey Schmidt and Sully rattled off a string of kills to give the Gauchos a 7-6 lead.

In the final set, UCSB once again trailed early, but then took nine of the next 15 points to tie up the score at 11. Santa Clara responded to take a 21-17 lead and looked as if it were poised to win, but a kill from senior middle blocker Lily Lopez and six consecutive hitting errors by Santa Clara gave the Gauchos a 24-21 lead. Lopez then finished the match with an emphatic kill to give UCSB the win, 25-22. “You have to always believe when you’re down that you can come back and make a run,” Gregory said.

North Dakota proved to be little more than a nuisance for the Gauchos in their tournament opener. Led by Sherrard (11 kills, nine digs, two service aces) and Schmidt (10 kills, five digs, three service aces), UCSB swept the Sioux in three sets, taking the first two by a score of 25-12 in each one, and winning the third 25-21.

“Our team chemistry is really strong this year,” Sherrard said. “We all know how each other plays and we know what each other’s next move is going to be.”

The Gauchos will travel to San Diego for three matches this weekend.