WVB: Gauchos run win streak to four

UCSB extended its winning streak to four matches with a dominant 3-0 sweep of UC Riverside (25-19, 25-13, 25-12) in the Thunderdome on Friday night.

“We played a clean match,” UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “We got our hitters going early and we finished hitting over .300 which is exceptional.”

Now winners of seven of their past nine matches, the Gauchos own a 7-6 overall record and remain perfect in the Big West at 2-0. Meanwhile, the Highlanders’ record slides to 2-12 with a 0-2 conference mark.

UCSB impressed on both offense and defense as the team finished with a collective .306 hitting percentage while holding UC Riverside to an anemic .040 clip. Leading the Gauchos in attacking were Britton Taylor and Jaylen Villanueva who each finished with 10 kills each. Not to be overlooked, freshman Chanel Hoffman had an efficient night with eight kills off a season-high .667 hitting percentage.

After tonight’s performance, Taylor has now gone back-to-back matches with a .333 kill percentage. The junior also led the floor at the net with three total blocks.

Defensively, Ali Spindt checked in with yet another impressive performance at libero with 26 digs, while averaging an impressive career-high of 8.7 per set. Together, the Gauchos collected 53 scoops, which is the most the team has combined for in a three-set match this year.

“I thought our defensive performance was great,” Lantagne Welch said. “Not only were we getting some blocks, but we were also digging the balls up on the floor which really frustrated their hitters. The back row looked spectacular all night.”

In the first set, UC Riverisde hung with UCSB until the Gauchos were leading the game 8-6. From there, UCSB went on its first big run of the night with a 10-2 offensive burst to go up 18-8. Hoffman ignited the offensive burst with her first kill of the match, while Ali Barbeau strung three kills in four plays to continue the rally. Also contributing to the run, Hanna Nielson dealt a service ace and Taylor threw down a pair of kills, while Villanueva capped it off with a kill of her own.

Facing a 10-point deficit, UC Riverside made things interesting with 10-4 run, but the Gauchos kept the Highlanders from reaching the 20-point mark. While a service error from Ashley Cox would hand UCSB the first set victory, the Gauchos were able to reach set point thanks to a block from Barbeau and Elizabeth Meddaugh along with a kill from Taylor.

Santa Barbara made quick work of Riverside in the second set with a 25-13 final score. Again, the Highlanders battled the Gauchos closely in the beginning and even tied the game at 7-7. That’s when UCSB took control of the set.

Behind two kills and an ace, UCSB collected four consecutive points in starting a 15-3 run. Hoffman and Barbeau each recorded a kill to start the run, while Barbeau also added two service aces later in the game to give UCSB a 21-10 lead. The junior outside hitter finished with a season-high four service aces and seven kills in hitting at a .467 clip.

Villanueva later gave UCSB set point, while Meddaugh buried a kill through the middle of the Highlanders’ defense to end the set.

The third set was all about the Gauchos, as they limited UC Riverside to a match-low 12 points. UCSB’s most impressive run of the set was on an 8-1 burst that gave the team a 16-6 advantage.

With the Gauchos leading 17-10, UCSB closed out the match on an 8-2 charge, which featured two kills from Hoffman along with a kill and match-clinching service ace from Villanueva.

UCSB will be back in action tomorrow night when they host UC Davis in the Thunderdome at 5 p.m.