HONOLULU, Hawaii – After taking the first two sets, the Gauchos held off Hawaii's furious comeback and defeated the No. 5 Rainbow Wahine in five sets. It was a historic victory for UCSB as it snapped Hawaii's 41 conference match win streak dating back to 2008. It was also the program's first win over Hawaii since 1994.
"What a huge night for Gaucho volleyball," UCSB Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "I'm so incredibly proud of our team. Our team came out and played aggressive, believed, and finished!"
Katey Thompson was the go-to player on offense, as she finished with 19 kills on the night while swinging for a .200 kill percentage. Helping UCSB out block the Rainbow Wahine 19-11, Thompson also added a team-high 10 block assists and a solo block to the Gaucho effort.
Ali Spindt and Ali Barbeau added kill totals of 12 and 10, respectively. Spindt also tallied 17 digs on the night for her fifth consecutive double-double performance, seventh overall. Leading UCSB in the digs category was Leah Sully with her season-high of 22.
The Gauchos are now on a three-match winning streak. They raise their conference record to 3-1, and 8-8 overall, while the Rainbow Wahine is now 4-1 in Big West play, and are 15-2 overall.
UCSB hit the ground running in the first set as they hit .438 while holding Hawaii to just .226 on their kill attempts. The Gauchos used this hitting efficiency most notably in an early 7-3 run. Opening the scoring spree was Thompson who delivered the first UCSB kill of the night to get the Gauchos on the board at 1-1.
UCSB had 16 kills in the set and only committed two errors en route to a 25-19 victory over the Rainbow Wahine. Defensively, the Gauchos denied any chance for Hawaii's offense to get into rhythm, as they could string together no more than three points in a row.
"I thought our defense was outstanding tonight," Lantagne Welch said. "What we didn't block, we dug, and it put a lot of pressure on their pin hitters."
The Gauchos picked up right where they left off with the start of the second game when they attacked their way to an 11-3 lead. Seven of UCSB's points came off kills from five different players. Ali Spindt and Thompson each led with a pair of kills to give their team the commanding lead.
Hawaii mounted runs of their own to shrink the deficit to three points at 20-17. However, UCSB's early lead would prove to be too much to overcome, as the Gauchos used two kills from Grunt and Barbeau to help seal the 25-20 victory and the 2-0 lead going into the break.
Hawaii answered back UCSB's hot start by pulling off wins in the third and fourth games to force set five.
To start the decisive game, Hawaii was playing with the momentum they picked up after winning two straight sets and battled to a 10-9 lead. Ali Barbeau was key in keeping UCSB in close contention as she accounted for three straight Gaucho kills during that time.
A Wahine attacking error tied the score, giving UCSB its opening to retake the lead. Phoebe Grunt took advantage of the opportunity with a kill, triggering a 4-1 UCSB run. Katey Thompson gave the Gauchos match-point opportunity with her 16th kill of the night, and she would go on to end the match when she and Allie Sullberg blocked Hawaii's final attack, securing the historic upset victory.
"We came very close to winning a few big matches earlier this season," Lantagne Welch noted. "But tonight, we showed we matured by being able to take care of business in the fifth after losing sets three and four against such a great program and in their great home environment."
The Gauchos will return to the Thunderdome next weekend to take on Cal State Northridge and UC Davis.