SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara ended a three-match homestand on a high note on Saturday night, defeating the visiting Cal Poly Mustangs in four sets, 3-1 (25-16, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22).
For the Gauchos, it is their second win in as many meetings with their central coast rivals. The pair of wins represent the only current wins for the Gauchos in the "Blue-Green Rivalry" in the 2012-13 year.
UCSB – winners in four of their last five – improve to 13-12 and 6-4 in Big West Conference play. Cal Poly falls to 3-19, 2-8 in the Big West Conference. The Mustangs loss puts an end to their two-match winning streak, their longest of the season.
The Gauchos were led by junior outside hitter Leah Sully, who finished the night with 18 kills, including six in the second game. Fellow junior outside Kara Sherrard fueled UCSB's early success, picking up seven kills in the first game and finishing with 14 overall. Both recorded double-doubles – Sully had 22 digs while Sherrard had 15 – for Sully's 19th overall and eighth in a row.
Junior opposite Katey Thompson joined the outside hitters in the double-double club, posting 12 kills and 14 digs.
Freshman libero Taylor Formico had a typically impressive night, covering the whole floor while totaling 31 digs in the four-game victory. Formico has now had 30 or more kills nine times this season, far and away the most of any player in the nation. Formico was also particularly impressive with the serve, leading the Gauchos through several long serving runs and tallying 27 serve attempts, tops among all players.
The Gauchos established themselves by jumping out to big leads in both of the first two sets. Up 5-2 in the first and 5-0 in the second, UCSB had little trouble dispatching the Mustangs. In fact, the Gauchos held the lead in the entire second set.
Cal Poly was able to claim the third game by starting off the set with a 6-0 run. UCSB threatened a comeback, coming as close as 22-23, but Cal Poly was able to withstand the Gauchos' attack.
Unlike each of the three first sets, the fourth game was closely contested. There were 11 ties and four lead changes, and the two teams were as close late as 23-22. UCSB was able to come out on top due to the exploits of Leah Sully, who led the team with 4 kills in the set.
Cal Poly struggled with UCSB's serving all night. The Gauchos held the Mustangs to a sub-50% sideout percentage in both games one and two. Five Gauchos notched an ace on the evening. One of those aces – from freshman middle blocker Britton Taylor – ended the match and any hopes of a Cal Poly comeback.
Cal Poly was led by outside hitter Molly Pon, who picked up 16 kills for the Mustangs. Libero Steffi Sooter led the Mustangs with 23 digs.
Next week, the Gauchos will travel to Hawai'i and Northridge for a pair of Big West away matches. The Gauchos swept Northridge earlier this season before getting swept by Hawai'i the next night. Thursday night's match at Hawai'i will have a 10:00 p.m. start time. Saturday's match against CSUN will have a normal 7:00 p.m. start time.