WVB: Barbeau shines in Gaucho win over Rice

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In a match that featured two extra-point sets, UCSB’s (3-1) potent offense and Ali Barbeau’s outstanding all-around performance made the difference in a gritty 3-1 win over Rice (3-2) at the Yale Invitational.

“Tonight was a tough match, and we really gutted it out for a team win,” coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “Our offense was really in sync and we got production from everywhere across the court.”

While the team hit for a combined .356 clip (the second-highest in the Lantagne Welch era), it was Barbeau who set the tone for the Gauchos with her team-high 15 kills off an efficient .405 kill percentage. What is most impressive is that she ended the night with zero attacking errors. Her 15 kills are by far the most she has had in a match where she also did not commit a hitting error.

If that were not enough, the outside hitter also managed to save some energy to play stellar defense, as she picked up five total blocks (two solo) and 14 digs.

Behind the senior in the kill column was Jaylen Villanueva who paced UCSB with 39 swings and came up with 12 kills. The opposite also matched Barbeau’s 14 digs for second-most on the team behind libero Emilia Petrachi’s 18.

At the net, Phoebe Grunt added four block assists, while Chanel Hoffman and Elizabeth Sheffield added two apiece.

The match would prove to be a tough one right from the start. In the first game, the Gauchos and the Owls were in a neck-and-neck battle, as no team was able to pull ahead by more than three points. Gaining that three-point advantage was UCSB at 19-16, but Rice rallied back with five straight points to take the 21-19 lead. Behind two clutch Britton Taylor kills, UCSB was able to force extra points in tying the game at 24-24, but Rice pulled out the win in the service game and took the 1-0 lead.

The Gauchos were quick to shake off the narrow loss and cruised to a 25-15 win in the second set. This was one UCSB’s offense started to take off, as 15 the points were scored off aces or kills. The game opened with the Owls taking their only lead of the game at 3-2, but the Gauchos made sure it was short-lived as they took off on a 7-1 run. Villanueva provided the first kill, while Grunt added a kill and a block to the run.

UCSB was not done yet, as the team went on to take its largest lead of the game at 21-11 following a streak of five unanswered points. Again, Grunt shined during that stint was a kill and a block, while Hoffman registered a kill and Nielson dealt an ace to officially put the Owls out of reach.

After the break, Santa Barbara picked up right where it left off with 14 more kills in a 25-19 third set victory. Rice competed well early and trailed only by one point at 14-13, but the Gauchos pulled out yet another punishing scoring spree with a 7-1 run. This time, Sheffield provided the spark to fire up the offense with a kill and was followed by a kill from Annie Hasselmann. With the help of three Owl errors, UCSB took a 21-14 advantage and never looked back.

Now with the 2-1 lead, the Gauchos looked to finish off Rice in the fourth set, but the Owls refused to go down quietly. Reminiscent of the first game, the score remained close until the final point. UCSB sported the largest lead at 12-8 following three straight points from Barbeau (two kills, solo block) and managed to keep maintain that edge at 21-18. However, the Owls found some momentum with a 6-1 run to move ahead 24-23.

With their backs to the wall, the Gauchos had to grind out clutch plays to take the set. First, Villanueva came through with the tying kill to force extra points, while a kill from Hoffman and a block from Barbeau and Grunt gave UCSB advantage at 26-25. Two plays later, an Owl ball handling error gave UCSB match point, and the team did not waste it as Hoffman drilled home a kill to end the set at 28-26.

UCSB will be back in action tomorrow, as it will face Yale at 10 a.m. and Rhode Island at 2 p.m. Both matches will have Live Stats, which are on UCSB’s schedule page and will later be posted on the team’s Twitter page