WVB: Gauchos fall to Pepperdine in tourney finale

MALIBU – In a meeting of the two undefeated teams in the Pepperdine Asics Tournament, UCSB was edged out by the Waves, 3-1, at the Firestone Fieldhouse on Saturday. The set scores were 25-18, 16-25, 25-19, 25-16.

With the first weekend of the new season in the books, the Gauchos are now 2-1 while Pepperdine improves to 3-0.

Santa Barbara put up a very balanced attack on offense, as five Gauchos made at least seven kills in the match. Elizabeth Sheffield paced the team with 10 kills and a dynamic .588 hitting percentage, while Ali Barbeau and Phoebe Grunt were behind her with eight kills apiece. From the right side, Britton Taylor and Jaylen Villanueva each added seven kills.

In distributing the ball across every position, setters Annie Hasselmann and Hanna Nielson finished with 24 and 22 assists, respectively. Nielson also came up with 12 digs for her second double double of the weekend. Leading the team in the dig category was libero Emilia Petrachi who became the first Gaucho in three years to record 30 digs in a single match.

Also adding to the defense, Taylor impressed at the net with a team-high four blocks (one solo), while Grunt has behind her with three blocks of her own.

Together the middle blocking pair of Grunt and Sheffield topped the UCSB roster with 10 and 11 points, respectively.

In the second-set win, the Gaucho offense exploded with a .487 hitting percentage — the best single set clip from either team. UCSB held a slim 10-8 before going on an 8-2 run. Sheffield provided the spark with a kill and put up a block with Taylor for the first two points.

During that stretch, Grunt found her swing and tallied three kills in five plays, which closed out the run.