NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara needed just one lead in the final set. The Gauchos got it at the most opportune time.
After allowing Cal State Northridge to rally and win games three and four on Friday night to force a deciding fifth set, UCSB watched as the Matadors led for the entire fifth game.
But at 13-12, UCSB finished strong and strengthened its grip on second place in the Big West. Leah Sully had a pair of kills and Stacey Schmidt and Lily Lopez combined for a block to hold off the Matadors and give the Gauchos a 25-21, 25-16, 17-25, 16-25, 15-13 victory at the Matadome.
UCSB, with one conference match left, is 17-11 overall and 10-5 in the Big West. CSUN falls to 14-13, 8-7.
The Gauchos have guaranteed themselves double-digit conference wins for the third straight season and have a chance at winning 20 in a season for the second time in three years. UCSB plays at UC Riverside on Saturday then faces TCU and San Diego State in a season-ending non-conference tournament next weekend.
UCSB still has a good shot of earning the program's 28th berth in the NCAA Tournament and helped solidify that on Friday night.
Leah Sully had 15 kills and 16 digs to lead three Gauchos with double-doubles. Stacey Schmidt had 11 putaways and 12 digs while Kara Sherrard added another double-double with 10 kills and 15 digs.
As has been the case all year, the Gauchos played stellar defense. Led by Chelsey Lowe's 27 digs, UCSB tallied 84 total pick-ups and had X blocks at the net, led by Lily Lopez's six assisted blocks. Lopez also finished with nine kills.
Sophomore Jenna Wilson hit .467 with eight kills in just 15 attacks.
CSUN led throughout the fifth and final set – save for Kara Sherrard's service ace to briefly give UCSB a 2-1 lead – as the Matadors jumped out to a 5-2 lead and forced a timeout.
Trailing 6-3, UCSB got a kill from Lopez, who moments later added a block with Sully, and an attack error by CSUN brought Santa Barbara within one. UCSB tied things up at 9-9 only to see the Matadors take a 12-9 lead on two kills by Natalie Allen and an attack error from the Gauchos.
Another timeout from Kathy Gregory settled her troops and rattled the Matadors as a service error and an attack error bookended a kill from Schmidt to tie things at 12-12.
Finally, Sully's two kills and the block by Schmidt and Lopez allowed UCSB to persevere and hang on for the victory.