ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The UCSB women’s volleyball team posted a 1-2 record in the Sheraton Hotel/Comcast Lobo Invitational after splitting their final two matches on Saturday, defeating Georgia Southern and falling to the University of New Mexico. Overall, the Gauchos now sit at 6-5.
For the Gauchos, junior outiside hitter Leah Sully was the clear focal point of attack after injuries and illness sidelined starting opposite Katey Thompson as well as understudies Jaylen Villanueva and Alex Flores.
Sully was up to the challenge, posting 51 kills on Saturday and 78 overall for the tournament. Due to her strong play, Sully was named to the All-Tournament team, along with teammate Taylor Formico.
Formico, a freshman libero, kept the Gauchos afloat often during the tournament, registering 50 digs on Saturday and 66 overall, highlighted by a magnificent 32-dig performance against Georgia Southern in the Saturday morning match.
Both UCSB matches featured comeback stories that fizzled short in the end.
In the morning match against Georgia Southern, UCSB cruised to a 2-0 lead, holding the Eagles to just 28 points over two games. However, the Eagles would ride the attacking tandem of Nicole Jeschelnik and Meredith Paskert to a 2-2 tie. The Gauchos had had enough of their comeback by the fifth game, hitting a blistering .421 as a team in the final game to extinguish Georgia Southern’s hopes.
In that match, Sully had a match high 25 kills, while freshman outside hitter Alex Barbeau had an impressive 15 kills in her most extensive action to date. Sully, who had 18 digs, was joined in the double-double club by sophomore setter Ali Santi, who picked up 54 assists and 18 digs.
The nightcap against the University of New Mexico featured a sluggish start from UCSB. The Lobos jumped out to a 2-0 game lead on the strength of Chantale Riddle’s attacking game. The Gauchos weren’t able to solve Riddle all night, as she had 11 digs and a team-high 19 kills for a double-double.
In games three and four, Santi was able to connect with her middles effectively. That linkup led to matching scorelines of 12 kills each for middle blockers Britton Taylor and Jenna Wilson. The dozen kills represented a career-high for Wilson, a junior. Taylor and Wilson also helped manufacture seven team blocks over games three and four, after having registered just one in the opening two games.
The resurgence in the middle brought the Gauchos back into the game, forcing a decisive fifth game. The UCSB comeback ended there, as the Gauchos converted on just 33% of their sideout points in the fifth game en route to a nine-point performance.