WVB: Gauchos finish season on a winning note

SAN LUIS OBISPO – In producing a season-high 80 digs, UCSB pulled off the season sweep of Cal Poly with a 3-1 victory at Mott Athletic Center on Wednesday night.

UCSB ends the season with a 13-14 record with an 8-8 mark in conference, while the Mustangs finish the year at 4-12 in the Big West and 9-17 overall.

In the team’s staunch defensive effort, five Gauchos reached double-figures in digs, as they limited Cal Poly to a desolate .140 hitting percentage. It was the most digs UCSB has scooped up since it recorded 90 at UC Irvine last season (11/30), which was also a 3-1 Gaucho win.

With Ali Spindt leading the way with 15 digs, Chanel Hoffman (13), Hanna Nielson (13), Ali Barbeau (12), and Ali Santi (11) all played roles in defending the Cal Poly attack.

Hoffman came up with her team-high seventh double-double of the season with her 13 kills, while both Nielson and Santi also had double double performances with 26 and 28 assists, respectively.

“I’m really happy for the team and the seniors that we could go out with a win,” UCSB Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “We had to stay persistent with so many tight sets, especially in sets three and four when Cal Poly really turned it up.”

With the match tied at 1-1 at the break, UCSB thwarted a late Cal Poly comeback to take the tightly contested third set 29-27.

UCSB was just one point away from game-point, but the Mustangs attack game caught fire with three straight kills in a 4-0 run that tied the score at 23-23. Stepping up to break the tie was Kristen Berlo with her eighth kill of the night.

In closing the set, the Gauchos relied on the right arm of Ali Barbeau who came through with four of UCSB’s final five points, all off kills. The outside hitter completed the match with a floor-high 16 kills with a potent .400 hitting percentage.

In the fourth set, Cal Poly reached a 13-9 lead thanks in part to Raeann Greisen who tallied three kills during that stretch. However, Britton Taylor pulled the match’s momentum back towards the Gauchos, starting with a kill to reclaim service for her team. She then went to the line and dealt a service ace to put UCSB within one. Elizabeth Meddaugh also added a kill in that 3-0 run, as the senior had one of her best attacking performances of the season with eight kills and an astounding .667 hitting percentage.

While the Mustangs managed to hold the lead for a while longer, they ultimately could not contain Berlo who was having a career night. The middle blocker from San Marcos High gave UCSB match-point with back-to-back kills and would later provide the exclamation point on the riveting match with yet another kill to end the fourth at 25-23.

Overall, Berlo finished the match with career-highs of 11 kills and eight block assists.