FULLERTON, Calif. – After losing a heartbreaking five-game match to Fullerton earlier this year at the Thunderdome, the Gauchos returned the favor by topping the Titans 3-2 on Saturday night at Titan Gym. Game scores for the match went 25-13, 25-21, 18-25, 25-20, 15-12.
The win – UCSB's second in a row – pushed the Gauchos' record to 15-16 overall and back to an even .500 in conference play at 8-8.
The Gauchos improved to 5-5 in five-game matches this season. This was the second time this season that UCSB had blown a 2-0 set lead. Both times, the Gauchos were able to prevail in the fifth.
With the loss, Cal State Fullerton fell to 15-14, 9-7.
When the Gauchos were successful, they were able to capitalize on mistakes from their opponent. The Titans racked up a season-high 33 attacking errors on the night. In the decisive fifth game, the turning point came when Cal State Fullerton's Bre Moreland sent an attack wide and was called for a net violation on consecutive points, giving the Gauchos an 11-7 edge.
Though the Titans would battle back, back-to-back blocks and a kill from junior middle blocker Jenna Wilson set the stage for freshman middle blocker Britton Taylor to score the match winning kill off the block.
Junior outside hitter Leah Sully led the way for the Gauchos, putting up a line of 20 kills and 22 digs for her third 20-20 night of the season. Sully has now recorded a double-double in five straight and in 13 of her last 14 matches. Overall, Sully has 23 double-doubles this season.
Britton Taylor was excellent on the slide all night, picking up 12 kills and hitting .455. Freshman setter Jaylen Villanueva dished out 40 assists, and was also a constant threat on the dump, picking up 5 kills, the most by a UCSB setter this season.
Freshman libero Taylor Formico had another sparkling defensive performance, picking up 30 digs. It was the 11th time this season that Formico has recorded 30 or more digs, far and away the most of all players in Division I volleyball.
The Gauchos established dominance early, starting the match on a 12-3 run. UCSB was content to trade points after that, cruising to a 25-13 set victory. The Gauchos employed a balanced attack, as four players ended the set with three kills. Freshman libero Taylor Formico frustrated Cal State Fullerton's attack efforts with six digs. The Gauchos' offensive balance and defensive prowess resulted in a .333 to -.022 hitting percentage advantage.
The two teams were relatively close through the beginning of the second game. Up 11-8, the Gauchos would score four consecutive points – including three straight attack errors from CSUF – to force a timeout from Titans head coach Carolyn Zimmerman. Off the timeout, UCSB would score another pair of points to give itself a comfortable 17-8 lead. It turned out that the Gauchos would need all of that lead, as the Titans rebounded to close out the set with a 13-8 run that came tantalizing close – UCSB head coach Kathy Gregory called a pair of timeouts near the end of the set – to bringing them back into the match. The Titans were held to a lowly .000 hitting percentage for the set.
Following the halftime break, the Titans displayed that they were no longer in the doldrums, taking the first four points of the third set. The Titans rode a much improved .325 hitting percentage and a pair of service aces from Kayla Neto to a relatively easy 25-18 set win. For UCSB, Formico was able to scoop eight digs in the frame.
Cal State Fullerton was able to carry their momentum into the fourth game, taking the set on the strength of seven blocks. The Titans had only accrued four blocks through the first three games. However, Fullerton's magic ran out in the fifth, when they reverted to the same form they displayed in the initial two sets of the match.
Fullerton was led by senior outside hitter Kayla Neto, who recorded 23 kills and 25 digs. Gabrielle Dewberry had 28 digs to lead the defense.
Next week, the Gauchos will play host to Long Beach State and UC Irvine in the final two matches of the 2012 season. Saturday night's match against UC Irvine will be Senior Night, when the Gauchos will honor their sole senior – Erica Lau. For tickets to the final two matches, click here.