SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Entering the third set down 2-0, UCSB took off on an inspiring comeback to down Cal Poly 3-2 in front of a rambunctious home crowd in the Thunderdome on Saturday night.
The Gauchos' signature moment in the match happened when they battled back with a 13-4 run to close out the fourth set after trailing 19-12. UCSB forced the Mustangs into six errors during that stretch including in each of the last three points.
"We know that we can grind it out," UCSB Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "It's not going to be pretty sometimes, but we can come back at any moment. The confidence the team had in each other in that moment was extremely important and a special thing."
The match was the third game of the 2014-15 Blue Green Rivalry series with UCSB taking the early lead at 2-1. The Gauchos have now won three straight matches and are 6-6 on the season and 1-0 in Big West play, while Cal Poly slides to 5-6 and starts their conference schedule at 0-1.
Leading Santa Barbara to victory was Britton Taylor who finished with 17 kills while hitting at an efficient .333 clip. Behind her were Jaylen Villanueva and Ali Barbeau who ended the night with 15 and 13 kills, respectively. Overall, UCSB edged the Mustangs in kill percentage at .251 compared to .243.
Defensively, UCSB was led by libero Ali Spindt who picked up 19 digs in the match, while also dealing out eight assists. Behind her in scoops were setters Hanna Nielson and Ali Santi with 12 and 10 digs, respectively. The two also finished with double doubles, as Nielson had 29 assists while Santi finished with 18. It's the first time this season that both players recorded double doubles in the same match.
In erasing a 19-12 deficit in the fourth set, the Gauchos were led by Taylor with a pair of kills, while Barbeau, Hoffman, Sullberg, and Villanueva added one each. After cutting the Mustangs' lead to 23-20, the Gauchos took back the serve with a kill by Taylor, which triggered a 5-0 run. Hoffman was immediately subbed in after the play and came up with a kill to move UCSB within one point. From there, the Gauchos used their stingy defense to force Cal Poly into three straight attacking errors.
"When you start making stops, touching balls on the block and digging behind it, it makes the other team think that the court is shrinking on them," Lantagne Welch said. "We did it with our blocking and our defense tonight, which put pressure on their hitters who suddenly didn't have an easy out for a kill."
Going into the decisive fifth set, the Gauchos were carrying plenty of momentum and used it to jump out to an 8-5 lead. Cal Poly would use a timeout there which helped the team rebound as the narrowed UCSB's lead to 9-8.
Undeterred, UCSB rattled off four unanswered points to take a commanding 13-8 lead as Nielson recorded two service aces in the stretch. The Mustangs made things interesting with a 3-0 run of their own to make the score 13-11, but the lead was too much as the Gauchos closed out the match with a Barbeau kill followed by a block from Sullberg and Taylor.
The Gauchos will be back in action next weekend in the Thunderdome as they host UC Riverside (10/3) and UC Davis (10/4) both with 7 p.m. start times in the Thunderdome. For tickets, call the UCSB Athletics Ticketing Office at 805.893.UCSB (8272) or go online here.