STOCKTON, Calif. - The Gauchos needed all five games to put away the Pacific Tigers on Saturday night, eventually coming back to win by a score of 3-2 (25-23, 17-25, 20-25, 25-23, 15-12).
With the win, the Gauchos improved to 11-11 overall and 4-3 in Big West Conference matches. It is the first time this season that the Gauchos have been over .500 in conference, and the first time they have been at .500 overall since Sep. 15.
With the loss, Pacific fell to 16-4, 4-3. Saturday night's defeat was just the Tigers' second in their last seven matches.
In a match whose outcome seemed uncertain until the very end, junior outside hitter Leah Sully was a rock for the Gauchos. Lead had a match-high 22 kills, the fourth time this season that she has had 20 or more kills in a match. Freshman libero Taylor Formico had one of her stronger performances of the season, finishing with 34 digs and two aces. Formico recorded six aces over the two-match road trip to Northern California.
The Gauchos eventual comeback was foreshadowed throughout the match, as they trailed in all five games. Their first comeback, in the very first game, started with a 14-10 deficit. A service ace from Leah Sully was followed shortly thereafter by back-to-back kills from junior outside hitter Kara Sherrard that brought UCSB back into the set. Sherrard finished the night with eight kills and 14 digs.
Later, a crosscourt kill from freshman middle blocker Britton Taylor gave the Gauchos an 18-17 lead, and UCSB coasted from there to a set victory.
The Tigers came roaring back at the start of the second. Pacific was able to win the next two games handily and seemed on the verge of victory as late as the fourth game. Pacific was led by Megan Birch, who had a team-high 14 kills, and Kat Schulz, who had 12 kills and 24 digs.
Down 14-11 in the fourth game, another Britton Taylor kill sparked a five-point rally for the Gauchos. From that original deficit, the Gauchos were able to go on a 14-6 run. Another big contributor in that tide-turning rally was junior opposite Katey Thompson, who contributed a block assist and two kills. For the match, Thompson had a strong overall line of nine kills, 13 digs, and six blocks.
UCSB stormed out to a 4-0 lead to start the do-or-die fifth, but then allowed Pacific to creep back into the game. Tied as late as 11-11, the Gauchos were able to reclaim control when Sully and junior middle blocker Jenna Wilson had consecutive kills. Wilson had eight kills and eight blocks on the night.
Back-to-back kills from Thompson sealed the victory for the Gauchos, who ended their road trip to Northern California with a perfect 2-0 record.
Next week, the Gauchos will look to remain hot as they return to the Thunderdome for a pair of matches against Cal St. Fullerton and UC Riverside. Tickets for those matches, and all remaining home matches this season, can be found here.