SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The 2013 UCSB women's volleyball opened the 2013 season by hosting No. 3 Stanford in the Thunderdome on Friday. The Gauchos competed in tightly contested sets, but would fall to the Cardinal 3-0.
The match was Nicole Lantagne Welch's first at the helm for UCSB, marking the start of new era in Gaucho women's volleyball. Stanford took the first point, but UCSB responded with Britton Taylor and Ali Spindt combining for a block to give the Gauchos their first point of the season. With that play, the new era had officially begun.
The two members of UCSB's top-ranked 2013 recruiting class played big roles in their debut.
Freshman outside hitter Ali Spindt led Santa Barbara with 11 kills, going along with her four digs and three total blocks.
At middle blocker, freshman Phoebe Grunt made four kills and had two total blocks, one solo. She didn't have to wait long to nab her first collegiate kill when she connected on her first attack of the match to give UCSB a 2-1 lead in the first.
The Cardinal's defense was prepared for outside hitter Leah Sully, who set the UCSB record for most kill attempts last season, and limited her to four kills. However, the senior showed her prowess on the other side of the ball and led the Gauchos on defense with 12 digs.
After missing last season, Hanna Nielson made her return to the floor by starting at setter and recording 23 assists.
Though the match ended in a sweep, the Gauchos kept the score close, especially in the second set.
After falling in the first 25-17, the teams traded off points early on to a 10-10 score. Stanford broke the tie with a 4-0 run triggered by a Brittany Howard kill. The Gauchos battled back, though, and thanks to a pair of Stanford errors and a kill from Elizabeth Meddaugh, UCSB lowered the deficit down to one.
Stanford regained control and eventually found itself with a set point chance with a 24-20 lead. UCSB, however, refused to let the Cardinal walk away from the set so easily.
To keep the set alive, Hanna Nielson found Phoebe Grunt for her fourth kill of the day. Continuing the effort, Spindt registered another kill to make the score 24-23, forcing Stanford to call a timeout.
The Cardinal, with their fifth consecutive try for set point, was able to put the second set away thanks to a kill from Howard.
In the third set, UCSB picked up where they left off and kept a tight score between themselves and the NCAA powerhouse. On two occasions, the Gauchos held a three-point advantage over the Cardinal.
Stanford's efficiency on offense proved too much for UCSB, and the Cardinal took the third and final set 25-20.
UCSB will continue their opening weekend on the road in Berkeley, Calif. where they will compete against Nevada and New Mexico State, respectively, at the Cal Molten Classic. They will tipoff with the Wolf Pack at 12:00 p.m. and will later face the Aggies at 7:00 p.m.
The Gauchos will return to the Thunderdome on Sept. 27 to open Big West play against Long Beach State.