SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – With two sets decided in extra points, UCSB pulled off a gritty 3-0 sweep of Cal State Northridge with arguably its best performance in conference play.
"We just kept getting after them tonight," UCSB Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "No matter how tough it got, we were always willing to dig a little deeper. We knew this was a match where we could show who we are and how we can play the game and that's exactly what we did."
The Gauchos improve to 9-9 and 4-3 in league play in becoming just the second Big West team to down CSUN, as undefeated Long Beach State previously topped the Matadors in four sets. With the loss, Northridge falls to 13-5 on the year and slides to 4-2 in league play. It is now the seventh season in a row that UCSB has swept the Matadors in the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos displayed a balanced attack in the victory with Chanel Hoffman leading the team with 12 kills. The freshman was followed by Jaylen Villanueva with eight and Phoebe Grunt and Britton Taylor who both finished with seven. Adding to her statline, Grunt swung at a vigorous .583 clip, while also tallying a team-best three blocks.
UCSB was also busy on the defensive side of the net, as Ali Spindt picked up 17 digs while Hoffman added 11 of her own in finishing the night with a double-double.
In the first set, the Gauchos came out strong in taking a commanding 10-4 lead. Grunt and Hoffman each had two kills in the run, while Hoffman also added a service ace. Northridge would later lower the deficit, but UCSB was still able to carry its early advantage to set point at 24-19.
From there, the Matadors nearly pulled off the long shot comeback starting with a kill from Danetta Boykin. After regaining the serve, CSUN put in Alia Casino at the service line who would help her team record four consecutive points, tying the score at 24-24.
In quelling the comeback, Villanueva stepped up with a clutch kill to give UCSB set point again. This sent her to the service line where she hammered home an ace to end the game at 26-24.
UCSB and CSUN seesawed through the first series of points in the second set until the Gauchos fired off four unanswered points to take a 7-4 lead. From there, the Gauchos never trailed in the game and convincingly took the second set with a 25-20 win.
With a chance for the sweep in hand, the Gauchos came out of the locker room on fire in scoring four consecutive points. With a pair of service aces, Barbeau orchestrated the run, as the Matadors opened the game with back-to-back attacking errors.
The early lead would only be temporary for UCSB, though, as Northridge answered back on an 8-3 burst to take its first lead of the set.
It would be Northridge's biggest run of the third, as neither team would go up by more than three points for the remainder of the game. The set – which was riddled with long rallies and exceptional digging on both sides – did not have a clear leader until UCSB took a 22-19 lead. The Gauchos strung together five straight points in gaining that lead, as Taylor notched a pair of kills.
After calling a timeout, CSUN answered back with a 5-1 run of its own to grab a 24-23 lead with a chance to avoid the sweep. However, UCSB refused to go away easy, as Allie Sullberg forced extra points with a kill to tie the score at 24-24. The teams would again battle to two more ties before UCSB found back-to-back kills from Villanueva and Barbeau to end the match.
UCSB will be back in action next Sunday when they visit Hawai'i in the teams' first meeting of the season. Last year, the Gauchos made history with a five-set win over the then No. 5 ranked Rainbow Wahine.