UCSB Downs NIU 3-1, Wins Tournament with 2-0 Weekend

UCSB Downs NIU 3-1, Wins Tournament with 2-0 Weekend

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After totaling a season-high 68 kills, UCSB shrugged off a first set loss and downed Northern Illinois 3-1 in finishing their home tournament in the Thunderdome.

Santa Barbara finishes their nonconference schedule with a 5-6 record, while Northern Illinois moves to 7-7.

"We had to persevere tonight," Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "They're not all going to be easy. We started a little slow and I think we cane come out better at the beginning of the match. Fortunately, we learned that in a situation where we pulled out a win."

With a perfect 2-0 weekend, the Gauchos won the UCSB/Cal Poly Tournament thanks to big performances from middle blocker Phoebe Grunt, libero Ali Spindt, and opposite Jaylen Villanueva, who were all named to the all-tournament team. Spindt was also named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after averaging six digs per set over the weekend. Against the Huskies, the sophomore anchored the Gaucho defense with a career-best 27 scoops. 

Despite struggling in the first game, UCSB rebounded by winning the next three sets thanks to their offense, which finished the night hitting at a .242 clip. Leading the way with 17 kills each were Ali Barbeau and Britton Taylor. Both players hit their season-high with that total, while Barbeau also had a season-best .351 hitting percentage. 

In totaling 68 kills, UCSB's offense was being run efficiently by setters Hanna Nielson and Ali Santi who ended the match with 33 and 26 assists, respectively.     

As Welch mentioned after the match, the Gauchos struggled early on, as NIU took the first set soundly at 25-20. But the Gauchos picked up some energy in the second game by exploding out of the gates with a 12-3 lead. After the Huskies dealt a service error to start the set, started the set, UCSB got its first kill from Taylor who put her team up 2-1. 

Barbeau, Taylor and Villanueva each added two kills to the run, while NIU failed to regain its offensive rhythm from the first set.

While the Huskies would later cut the deficit to as many as four points, UCSB rode their early lead to a 25-21 win, as Grunt and Chanel Hoffman recorded the set-clinching block. Grunt finished the night with three block assists and also dazzled on offense with nine kills and a .500 kill percentage.

With the match tied at 1-1, NIU looked like it could take charge in the third set with an early lead at 8-3. The Huskies fended off UCSB for most of the game, but the Gauchos' persistence would pay off as they claimed their first lead at 20-19.

UCSB found itself on the short end of a 19-15 score, but a kill from Barbeau would set the team on a 5-0 run. The outside hitter would tally another kill to officially pull them ahead, while Villanueva added a kill and a block assist. 

After trading off points, the Huskies tied the game at 24-24, but back-to-back kills from Grunt and Taylor sealed the win and gave the Gauchos the 2-1 overall lead.

By the time the fourth set started, UCSB's offensive was firing on all cylinders as 18 of its final 25 points came off kills. Freshman Chanel Hoffman collected five of those including one that gave the Gauchos match point.

While the set started off close, UCSB distanced itself from the Huskies with a 7-3 run in grabbing a 13-8 lead. Hoffman tallied two kills on the run, while Taylor capped it off with a kill of her own. From there, the Gauchos came away with their most dominant set of the night with a 25-19 final score. 

UCSB will be back in action next weekend when they host Cal Poly in their Big West opener on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.

For more information on the women's volleyball team, follow the team on Twitter @UCSB_Volleyball and on Instagram @UCSB_Volleyball.

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All-Tournament Team

Phoebe Grunt, MB - UC Santa Barbara
Nikki Hess, OH - Santa Clara
Taylor Nelson, S - Cal Poly
Mackenzie Roddy, OH - Northern Illinois
*Ali Spindt, Lib - UC Santa Barbara
Jaylen Villanueva, Opp - UC Santa Barbara 

*MVP