SAN DIEGO, Calif. – In its 28th NCAA Tournament appearance, the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team could not continue their season as No. 9 San Diego completed the first round sweep in front of a home crowd. After a gritty 26-24 first set, USD went on to take the remaining games 25-18, 25-14.
"We played a very good first set," Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "Unfortunately after that we didn't play our best, which happens in sports. San Diego is a great team, so we to tip our hats to them."
Katey Thompson led the Gauchos against San Diego with nine kills after hitting at a .304 clip, also a team high.
At the net, Phoebe Grunt added six of UCSB's 15 total blocks.
With 16 digs tonight, Leah Sully completed her illustrious Gaucho career as the program's all-time digs leader at 1,742.
Sully played the first two games as libero, but she made the switch back to her natural position at outside hitter in the final set after Ali Barbeau was injured during the second.
"This season has been amazing," Sully said. "After playing libero for most of the year, it was pretty special to play my final game at outside."
The senior led her team with three kills in the match's final set.
UCSB previously played the Toreros in September during the USD Tournament. In that meeting, San Diego swept the Gauchos in a quick victory.
This time around, however, UCSB showed up big in the first set and battled USD in a tightly contested game.
As the Toreros took their largest lead of the set at 17-13, the Gauchos stormed back into contention with a 5-1 run to knot the game at 18. Thompson ignited the UCSB offense with a kill and also dealt a service ace two plays later.
Barbeau and Ali Spindt concluded the run with back-to-back kills.
The teams continued by trading off points until San Diego reached match point at 24-23. The Toreros were held off from reaching the 25th point, though, when Grunt prolonged the game with a kill off an errant USD pass and evened the score at 24.
Behind its home crowd, San Diego was able to edge the Gauchos when Taylor Hollins strung together consecutive kills.
"Our team had an incredible journey this year and there are so many things to be proud of," Lantagne Welch said. "I know that when I wake up tomorrow, we'll be able to remember and take with us so many special memories from this year."
After being selected sixth in the Big West's preseason poll, the Gauchos turned heads this season with a marquee win at then No. 5 Hawai'i and by pulling off the season sweep over nationally ranked Cal State Northridge. In qualifying for their first NCAA Tournament since 2009, UCSB earned a share of the Big West title in Lantagne Welch's first year at the helm.