WVB: Gauchos score historic win in Hawaii

UCSB had suffered a couple of heart-breaking five-set losses this season against Arizona and Long Beach State. But on a late Saturday night, playing in a hostile environment, the Gauchos pulled off a huge win in five sets, knocking off fifth-ranked Hawaii.

The set scores were 25-21, 25-20, 21-25, 22-25, 15-12.

“What a huge night for Gaucho volleyball,” first-year UCSB Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “I’m so incredibly proud of our team. Our team came out and played aggressive, believed, and finished!”

It was a historic victory for UCSB as it snapped Hawaii’s 41 conference match win streak, dating back to 2008. It was also the program’s first win over Hawaii since 1994.

Katey Thompson was the go-to player on offense, as she finished with 19 kills on the night while swinging for a .200 kill percentage. Helping UCSB out block the Rainbow Wahine 19-11, Thompson also added a team-high 10 block assists and a solo block to the Gaucho effort.

Ali Spindt and Ali Barbeau added kill totals of 12 and 10, respectively. Spindt also tallied 17 digs on the night for her fifth consecutive double-double performance, seventh overall. Leading UCSB in the digs category was Leah Sully with her season-high of 22.

The Gauchos are now on a three-match winning streak. They raise their conference record to 3-1, and 8-8 overall, while the Rainbow Wahine is now 4-1 in Big West play, and are 15-2 overall.

“I thought our defense was outstanding tonight,” Lantagne Welch said. “What we didn’t block, we dug, and it put a lot of pressure on their pin hitters.”

To start the decisive game, Hawaii was playing with the momentum they picked up after winning two straight sets and battled to a 10-9 lead. Ali Barbeau was key in keeping UCSB in close contention as she accounted for three straight Gaucho kills during that time.

A Wahine attacking error tied the score, giving UCSB its opening to retake the lead. Phoebe Grunt took advantage of the opportunity with a kill, triggering a 4-1 UCSB run. Thompson gave the Gauchos match-point opportunity with her 16th kill of the night, and she would go on to end the match when she and Spindt blocked Hawaii’s final attack, securing the historic upset victory.

“We came very close to winning a few big matches earlier this season,” Lantagne Welch noted. “But tonight, we showed we matured by being able to take care of business in the fifth after losing sets three and four against such a great program and in their great home environment.”