WVB: UCSB falls to 0-5 in Big West

SAN LUIS OBISPO — After taking a hard fought second set win, UCSB (4-12, 0-5) was unable to hold off Cal Poly (12-4, 4-1) in the final two games, as the Gauchos fell 3-1 at Mott Athletics Center on Saturday night.

Ali Barbeau and Phoebe Grunt both reached season-highs in the kill category with 17 and 10, respectively. Grunt’s .421 hitting percentage also led all Gauchos with more than one kill.

Emilia Petrachi assumed her usual role as UCSB’s digs leader with 20, tops for either team. At the net, Elizabeth Sheffield and Britton Taylor had solid outings with five block assists each, as the Gauchos outblocked the Mustangs 18-12.

The Gauchos’ offense came to life in the second set, as they recorded 22 of their 28 points from kills. Barbeau led the team to a .400 hitting clip with seven kills, while Grunt, Sheffield, and Villanueva recorded four each.

UCSB wasted no time in jumping out ahead to a 9-5 lead. Nielson started the game off with a one of her four service aces in the match, while Sheffield shined with three straight points from a kill and back-to-back blocks.

The Gauchos were able to maintain their lead until Cal Poly found some momentum with four unanswered points, tying the match at 16-16. That run changed the dynamic of the set, as the teams found themselves in a neck-and-neck battle into extra points. The Mustangs had a game-point opportunity at 24-23, but Villanueva stepped up and delivered a clutch kill to keep the Gauchos alive.

After two chances at game-point, UCSB received its third opportunity thanks to a Taylor kill, while an attacking error from Taylor Gruenewald officially gave the Gauchos the win.

The contentious nature of the match carried through to the third set with neither team garnering more than a three-point lead. In the middle of the set, the Gauchos erased a three-point deficit with a 5-1 run that featured a pair of kills from Sheffield. UCSB managed to remain ahead until the Mustangs overcame a 21-18 Gaucho lead with a 7-1 run. Barbeau produced UCSB’s lone point of the stretch with a kill, as Cal Poly’s offense came through with four kills.

The fourth set opened with both teams trading 3-0 runs. The Gauchos enjoyed their largest lead of the game at 16-13 following a 5-1 surge. Villanueva delivered two kills, while Barbeau added one of her own.

Cal Poly was able to respond with a 5-1 run of their own to take the lead at 19-18. From there, the Gauchos would tie the score two more times, including at 23-23 following a service ace from Nielson. However, the Mustangs were able to finish the match two points later with their own ace from Savannah Niemen.