WVB: Gauchos clinch Big West title, NCAA Tournament berth

UCSB is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

UCSB is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Nicole Lantagne Welch brought her dancing shoes when she came to UCSB from the University of Miami.

Her Gaucho women?s volleyball team will be wearing those shoes as they earned spot in the Big Dance ? the NCAA Tournament ? by winning a share of the Big West title Saturday night with a four-set victory at UC Irvine. The set scores were 26-24, 22-25, 29-27, 25-12.

Lantagne Welch coached the Gauchos to their first Big West title and NCAA Tournament berth since 2009. She took over for the legendary Kathy Gregory, who guided the program to 27 NCAA tourneys. Gregory retired after a 38-year career.

Lantagne Welch coached 12 at Miami and took the Hurricanes to four straight NCAA Tournaments and five overal. She was named the ACC and the AVCA East Region Coach of the Year in 2012.

She guided UCSB to a 13-3 conference record and a share of first place with Cal State Northridge and Hawai?i. The Gauchos (18-10 overall) won a tiebreaker ? a 3-1 record against the other two teams ? to earn the conference?s automatic tournament berth.

“I’m just so proud of our team and staff for this great accomplishment,” Lantagne Welch said. “It took a great team commitment and belief in each other through the entire regular season. It wasn’t our prettiest night, but we got the job done.”

Freshman Ali Spindt had a spectacular match against UC Irvine, posting 13 kills and a team-high 26 digs. Freshman Ali Barbeau led the team with 15 kills. Jaylen Villanueva added 7 kills and Katey Thompson chipped in 6.

The defense was stellar. Libero Leah Sully picked up 22 digs, Ali Santi had 11 and Kara Sherrard 10. The Gauchos totaled 90 digs in the match. With her performance, Sully became UCSB’s all-time leaders in digs with 1,723. She surpassed Kristin Nelson (1,711).

UCSB will learn its NCAA Tournament draw on Sunday.The field of 64 teams for the tournament will be unveiled on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m.

Speak Your Mind