WVB: Gaucho season trails off at UC Irvine

IRVINE, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara (7-20, 3-13) ended its season with a 3-0 loss at UC Irvine (13-15, 7-9) at the Bren Events Center on Tuesday night.

The Gauchos struggled offensively with a .062 hitting percentage, while the Anteaters closed out the match with a .400 clip in the third game.

Elizabeth Sheffield took the lion’s share of attacks with 28 swings, as she ended the match as the team-leader with nine kills. Jaylen Villanueva was behind her with eight kills and also added seven digs, which was second only to Shauna Klein’s seven.

At the net, Phoebe Grunt was a part of a team-leading six blocks, including two solo efforts, while Sheffield added three block assists.

The Gauchos and the Anteaters opened the match with a tightly battled 25-23 first game. Villanueva delivered the first point of the match with a kill, while Sheffield registered a block and a block to help UCSB grab an early 4-1 lead.

Santa Barbara maintained a lead until UCI fired off a eight straight points, as the Gauchos stumbled with seven errors.

The team was quick to respond, though, and cut the six-point deficit down to one with a 7-2 run. Grunt was particularly impressive during the stretch in registering two kills and a pair of blocks. Sheffield put the finishing touch on the run with the kill that made the score 15-14 Irvine.

Marisa Bubica later delivered three kills in four points to preserve the Anteaters’ lead and also dealt the service ace that put them ahead 20-16. From there, the teams traded off points, as UCI never let its lead slip and finished ahead 25-23.

In the second game, UCSB again pulled ahead early at 8-4, but Irvine came through with 10-1 run to take game’s momentum. With a .265 hitting clip and only committing three attacking errors in the set, the Anteaters closed out the set with a 9-2 stretch that included six kills.

After the intermission, the Gauchos responded to an early 10-5 Irvine lead with four consecutive points, making it a one-point set. On the run, Barbeau and Villanueva added kills, as the team kept itself within one point of the Anteaters but could not muster the tying point. Irvine broke away with a 6-2 run and took control of the set with Sydney Wright delivering three of the points off kills.

The Anteaters needed three attempts at match-point, as Sheffield produced a kill and the Gauchos forced Wright into an attacking to make the score 24-20. However, Bubica clinched the match with her ninth kill.