WVB: Gauchos push No. 17 UCLA in tourney finale

The Gauchos saved their best match of the weekend for their tournament’s highest ranked team in No. 17 UCLA. Though the Bruins (7-1) came away with the 3-0 win to finish the weekend undefeated, UCSB (4-5) put up an aggressive effort with scores of 27-25 and 25-23 in the final two sets.

“We’ve been a little off on our play this weekend, but I thought today we went out and competed,” UCSB head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “We took a step in the right direction and really went after them. Of course it’s disappointing not to pull out a set and make the match really interesting, but we definitely put a great effort out on the court and it’s something to build on.”

Chanel Hoffman matched a career-high with 15 kills and also hit at a .229 clip. Also reaching a personal-best mark in kills was Devin Joos who was second on the team with nine. Hoffman also had a strong outing at the net with six blocks, as Phoebe Grunt followed her with five. Hanna Nielson dealt out the bulk of the Gauchos’ assists with 21, while Annie Hasselmann recorded 12.

Defensively, Sydney Bast made her first start at libero this season and finished with career-highs of 17 digs and nine assists.

The Gauchos opened the match in a big way with three unanswered points including a Hoffman kill and an ace from Ali Barbeau. A service error put UCLA on the scoreboard and officially opened what proved to be a tight battle.

While the Gauchos were able to snag the lead at 15-12, the Bruins took off on their biggest run of the match with six unanswered points to take the lead, which they rode to a 25-19 victory.

The second set looked to be all UCLA’s, as they took a 21-15 lead after scoring five consecutive points. But then the Gauchos made things interesting.

In facing the six-point deficit, UCSB regained its serve thanks to a Bruin service error and fired off a 9-3 run to force extra points.

“We did a really good job of playing point-for-point and not worrying about the scoreboard,” Welch said.

During that stretch, UCSB honed in on UCLA’s Haley Lawless and forced her into a pair of attacking error, while the team also picked up four kills and two blocks. UCLA had a chance to cut off the Gauchos’ rally short, but UCSB was able to score three straight times while facing set-point.

The Bruins called a timeout after the Gauchos tied the game at 24 apiece, but UCSB kept with the momentum and blocked a Reily Buechler attack to take a 25-24 lead. Despite trailing for the first time since the beginning of the set, UCLA clinched a 2-0 lead after forcing the Gauchos into three attacking errors.

Though not as dramatic as the second game, the third offered another tight battle between the teams, as neither pulled ahead by more than four points.

The Bruins were able to grab a 20-17 edge, but it quickly slipped away as the Gauchos produced a pair of kills and a block from Grunt and Hoffman to tie the score.

The teams soon contested their way to a 23-23 score, but UCLA was able to break the tie and end the game 25-23.

The Gauchos will be back in the Thunderdome this weekend, as they will be co-hosting a tournament with Cal Poly. UCSB will host Loyola Marymount on Friday at 7 p.m. and will play San Diego State on Saturday at 4 p.m.

 

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