September 1, 2012

Gauchos Dispatch Northeastern, Fall to UCLA in UCSB Invitational

The Gauchos experienced the entire spectrum of emotion in a whirlwind Day Two of the UCSB Invitational. UCSB swept the Northeastern Huskies in the morning despite trailing in each game, and then fell after a promising start in the nightcap to the third-ranked and defending national champion UCLA Bruins.

After the tournament, junior outside hitter Katey Thompson and sophomore setter Ali Santi were both named to the All-Tournament team for their spectacular weekends. Thompson compiled 44 kills, four aces, and 11 blocks over the weekend, while Santi dished out 130 assists. The Gauchos finished the tournament with a 2-1 record, pushing their overall record to 4-2.

Idaho's Allison Baker, Northeastern's Natalia Skiba, and UCLA's Zoe Nightingale and Karsta Lowe rounded out the All-Tournament team.

The Gauchos were pleased overall with their performance over the weekend.

"We had a pretty good tournament in the end." mused UCSB Head Coach Kathy Gregory. "We wanted to compete with UCLA and we did. They started out with some of their bench players but we made them rethink that when we won the first game."

That first game in the UCLA match might as well have been called the "Thompson and Formico Show." Thompson in particular terrorized the Bruins, racking up seven kills in the frame on a .636 hitting percentage. Thompson would finish the match with 16 kills overall. Freshman libero Taylor Formico had 10 digs in the first, and provided setter Ali Santi with excellent passes throughout the game that led to several attacking opportunities. Formico finished the night with 24 kills.

In addition, four Gauchos served up aces in the first game, exploiting the UCLA back line. UCSB would record just four more aces over the rest of the match.

UCLA made changes in the lineup after the first game, bringing in setter Megan Moenoa and outside hitter Karsta Lowe. Those changes brought a swift momentum change in favor of the Bruins. After the first game, UCLA held the Gauchos to a sub-.100 hitting percentage twice and a sub-.200 percentage once. The Bruins, on the other hand, hit over .243 in each of the final three games.

The Gauchos were able to stay close with UCLA through the middle of each game, but were unable to stop Bruin serving runs that let them break away each time. Games scores for the match ended up being 21-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-19.

The Bruins were led by Lowe, who co-led the team in both kills, with 14, and blocks, with six. Rachel Kidder also finished with 14 kills, while Mariana Aquino was a constant menace at the net, equaling Lowe's six blocks.

Junior outside hitter Leah Sully led the Gauchos with her 17 kills. Sully picked up her fourth double-double of the young season by recording 12 digs. Thompson wasn't far behind with her 16 kills, and also led the team with four blocks.

UCSB's morning game against Northeastern was an excercise in resiliance, as the Gauchos found themselves trailing in each game. Despite it all, the Gauchos swept the visiting Huskies 3-0, 26-24, 25-23, 25-17.

The first game of the match required extra points for the Gauchos to win, and the second and third sets featured UCSB defecits as large as seven points and five points, respectively.

Each time, UCSB picked up their attacking game as Santi found holes in the Huskies' defensive setup.

Once again, Sully led the way with 14 kills. Freshman middle blocker Britton Taylor had a strong game, picking up seven kills off the slide play and leading the team with four blocks.

Looking forward, UCSB has a heavy upcoming schedule for the next week. The Gauchos will travel north to face Portland St. on Tuesday, Sep. 4 and Oregon on Wednesday, Sep. 5. From there, the Gauchos will head straight to Albuquerque, N.M. for the New Mexico Tournament taking place from Sep. 7-8. 

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