UCSB Downs No. 21 CSUN in Pivotal Matchup

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – In a match that may ultimately decide the Big West title, UCSB downed No. 21 Cal State Northridge in a thrilling five setter. With final scores of 25-18, 27-29, 25-20, 21-25, and 15-12, the match with heavy postseason implications had both teams playing with playoff mentalities.

"That was a high level volleyball match and I'm proud of my team," UCSB Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "We came to play and we came to win. Every time they had an answer for us, we answered right back."

That statement accurately described UCSB's performance in the fifth set.

Jaylen Villanueva opened the decisive set with the Gauchos' first three kills to put her team ahead 3-2. UCSB made their big breakaway when Katey Thompson went to the service line. Not only did the senior serve for four straight points, but she also dealt the Matadors two aces.

CSUN regained the serve with the Gauchos leading 11-5, but UCSB denied them consecutive serves, as a pair of kills and a block brought them ahead 14-8.

At that point, Cal State Northridge put up four unanswered points to hold off UCSB from ending the match. However, the Gauchos' early dominance in the fifth set proved too much as Thompson buried her 15th kill of the night to clinch the match.

With the victory, the Gauchos (10-2) officially own the tie-breaker against CSUN (12-2), having swept their season series. UCSB now controls its own playoff destiny heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Ali Spindt led the Gaucho offense with 18 kills to go along with her 10 digs. Following her in the kill category was Thompson with 15 and Jaylen Villanueva with 11. Also getting work on offense were the freshmen middle blockers, as Phoebe Grunt (8) and Allie Sullberg (6) combined for 14 kills at the net.

 "We had great production from all areas of the court offensively for us," Lantagne Welch said. "It was simply a big team win."

On defense, Leah Sully led the Gauchos to 67 digs with 12 of her own. Aside from Spindt, Hanna Nielson also came up with 10 digs in the match.

UCSB captured the 25-18 first set win after breaking an 8-8 tie. The Matadors' Natalie Allen committed an attacking error to put the Gauchos ahead and Grunt followed the play with her first kill of the night, continuing what would become a 4-0 UCSB run.

The Gauchos made their separation when they were up 15-12 as Katey Thompson hammered a kill, which triggered a 10-5 offensive stretch for UCSB. Coming off the bench, Villanueva added two kills during the run, including one that gave the Gauchos set-point.

After coming up short in its comeback in the second set, UCSB jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the third. The Gauchos never gave up their lead in the game as Spindt registered seven kills. UCSB opened the set with four straight points and left the Matadors behind the rest of the way as CSUN would never come closer than three points to the Gauchos' lead

UCSB will return to the Thunderdome next week to wrap up its home schedule with matches against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside. Tickets are available at the Ticketing Office by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or by going online here.