Down 2-0, Gauchos Rally to Beat St. Mary's

Stacey Schmidt (photo by Matt Brown)
Stacey Schmidt (photo by Matt Brown)

PROVO, Utah -- While it wasn't the same amount of pressure or elimination of a postseason match, there is certainly some satisfaction for the UC Santa Barbara women's volleyball team after their season-opener. 

Facing St. Mary's in the opener of 2011 on Friday night the Gauchos exacted some revenge on the Gaels with a dramatic 21-25, 22-25, 25-21, 25-23, 15-12 victory. It was UCSB's opener in the BYU Nike Invitational. 

It was St. Mary's that knocked the Gauchos out of the 2009 NCAA Tournament with a comeback from a 2-0 hole, rallying for a 3-2 win. 

Behind a spirited effort from their senior leader, Stacey Schmidt, the Gauchos were able to rally a comeback and start the year by beating a team that is receiving votes in the preseason AVCA poll. 

Schmidt had a team-best 18 kills and a career-high 11 block assists to help win a defensive battle. 

UCSB hit just .116 for the match - hardly a benchmark for victories - but held the Gaels to a mere .105 clip. Santa Barbara tallied 14.0 team blocks on the night. On top of that, UCSB had four players record double-digits in digs. 

UCSB had 93 digs, which is better than any dig total the 2010 team had. Chelsey Lowe had 24 digs, Leah Sully had 18 and Katey Thompson had a career-best 13. Adding to that impressive feat was freshman setter Hanna Nielson who had 16 digs to go along with 45 assists in her first collegiate match.

Sully had 16 kills for a double-double in her first match since tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in last year's season opener. Kara Sherrard had 12 kills, completing the Gaucho attackers who reach double-digits.

UCSB will play a doubleheader on Saturday by facing BYU in the morning and then battling No. 8 Illinois in the nightcap.