TUCSON, Ariz. – The Gauchos made the most out of their final day of nonconference play, as they swept Loyola Maryland and competed with Arizona to five sets. The sweep was UCSB's second in the Wildcat Classic, while the Gauchos pushed Arizona to extra points in the fifth set.
"We raised our level of play as a team today," UCSB Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "We took a nice three-game sweep against Loyola and played Arizona close in their house."
Seniors Leah Sully and Katey Thompson led the team throughout the weekend and were both named to the all-tournament team. Sully finished the weekend with 25 kills and 35 digs, while Thompson paced Santa Barbara with 30 kills over the three matches.
"Katey was incredible in set five against Arizona, and Leah did so many things well on the court for us handling the ball," Lantagne Welch said.
After picking up two wins over the weekend, the Gauchos improve their record to 5-7.
UCSB will be back in action next Friday when they host Long Beach State in their Big West season opener at the Thunderdome. Be there to witness the start of conference play by getting your tickets today.
The Gauchos never gave the Greyhounds a chance in a convincing 3-0 sweep that was decided by 25-18, 25-11, and 25-17 final scores. Leah Sully swung for 10 kills and made eight digs to lead UCSB in both categories, while Katey Thompson was right behind her with nine kills and a .533 kill percentage.
In the blowout second set, the Gauchos started out tied with the Greyhounds at 7 apiece. Allie Sullberg and Sully then put UCSB back on top with a block, which triggered an 11-1 run.
During that stretch, Sullberg went on to record two kills, while Ali Barbeau and Hanna Nielson both dealt a pair of service aces.
At that point, the Greyhounds could not recover and were denied by the combination of Sullberg and Ali Spindt on the block. Sullberg finished the match tied with Phoebe Grunt for a team-high four block assists.
In the third set, Loyola got off to a hot start, but was unable to obtain a lead larger than three points. With UCSB down 12-10, the Gauchos used three unanswered kills to take the lead for the first time in the set. Sully recorded the first kill, while Thompson and Spindt followed her with their respective attacks.
From there, the blue and gold never looked back. UCSB held the Greyhounds to just five more points to finish the match.
In one of their most competitive matchups of the season, the Gauchos dug deep to play Arizona to a fifth set. It was the first time UCSB competed with a Pac-12 team in five sets since the 2000 season when they were also playing Arizona.
"Overall, we played well and put ourselves in a position to win the match, which is exactly where we wanted to be," Lantagne Welch noted. "We were just one play short."
Katey Thompson saved her best for the last set when she rattled off five straight UCSB kills to help break a 7-7 tie. The Gauchos held the lead for most of the set and even found themselves up 14-11 before the Wildcats made their comeback.
After the Arizona took the first set, UCSB was neck-and-neck with the tournament host in the second. The Wildcats broke a 23-23 tie to give themselves a chance at set point, but Katey Thompson delivered the crucial tying kill to deny them that opportunity.
Arizona retook the lead and had another set point at 25-25, but Thompson used yet another clutch kill to tie the set back up.
The Gauchos forced Arizona to its limits as the Wildcats made consecutive attack errors to give UCSB the second set, tying the match at 1-1.
After grinding out a win in the second set, UCSB made sure the third set wasn't even close with its 25-15 victory. The Gauchos never gave up their lead, as the Wildcats were consistently behind three or four points for most of the set.
With the score at 18-14 UCSB, the Gauchos went on a 7-1 run, capped off by a kill from Ali Barbeau. Also contributing to the big push were freshmen Phoebe Grunt and Ali Spindt who both registered a kill, and also Thompson who punched in a service ace.
It was a narrow loss for UCSB, but the team will look to get back in the win column next Friday when they host Long Beach State in their Big West season opener.