The UCSB women’s volleyball team went 1-1 this past weekend in what was both their first home and Big West games of the season. After a tough 3-2 loss Friday night against Long Beach State, the Gauchos bounced back to defeat UC Irvine in straight sets on Saturday.

Long Beach State improved to 8-7 overall and 1-0 in the Big West with the win while Irvine dropped to 9-7, 0-2. UCSB now finds itself with a 6-8 overall record and a 1-1 record in Big West play.

“We’ve improved greatly from our very first match,” said Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. “I’m very excited about the progress that we’re making. We just need to keep getting better each day.”

The Gauchos got off to a bit of a slow start in Saturday’s game against UCI after three straight service aces from senior outside hitter Aly Squires gave the Anteaters an early 8-4 lead. However, after a timeout, UCSB scored three straight points and ended up dominating the majority of the game.

After breezing through the first set 25-19 and winning the second set 25-21, the Gauchos met their biggest test of the night in the third set. The Gauchos were able to prevail off a kill by senior outside hitter Katey Thompson, ending the set with a score of 26-24 and the game 3-0.

“It was really important for us to get this win,” sophomore opposite Jaylen Villanueva said. “We just came out today with so much fire and so much intensity and we’re really excited for this win.”

Leading the way for UCSB were Thompson and freshman outside hitter Ali Spindt with 10 kills each, while freshman middle blocker Allie Sullberg added five kills and the team’s only block. Spindt also led the way with 14 digs as she continues to excel in just her first year with the team.

“We kept our energy high on the court and we were able to shake off the balls that we missed,” Villanueva said.

The first conference win of the season came on the heels of a tough loss to Long Beach on Friday night. In the fifth and final set, UCSB found itself tied 12-12 with the 49ers before conceding three of the final four points and losing the match 3-2.

Thompson and Spindt led the way for the offense in this one as well, with 23 and 16 kills, respectively, and sophomore outside hitter Ali Barbeau added 13 kills of her own. Senior Leah Sully made her first start of the season at libero, and she led the team with 20 digs.

“Leah’s a great ball hander and unfortunately it’s putting her in a position where she has to pass the ball a lot for us,” Lantagne Welch said. “Tonight we just had incredible offensive production, hitting close to .400 as a team with so many players contributing, so that was definitely a credit to our passers, our setting and our hitters to be smart when attacking.”

UCSB ends its home stand on Saturday when it hosts rival Cal Poly. The game will begin at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.


A version of this article appeared on page 5 of September 30, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.

Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.