SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The Gauchos proved they could play through adversity in their 3-2 comeback victory over UC Davis on Saturday night. After trailing 2-1 entering the fourth set, Leah Sully made the switch from libero to outside hitter and led UCSB's offense to the exciting five-set finish.
"I just had the mentality that I was going to go after it and swing as hard as I could," Sully said. "Luckily I got some splits and my teammates were putting up some good sets for me, so I was really able to just go for it tonight."
Sully led the Gauchos in the final two games with nine kills –including the match clincher– and swung for an impressive .643 kill percentage. Aside from her offensive output, Sully also added a season-high 25 digs to her stat line.
The Gauchos are now tied with Hawai'i for second place in the Big West at 5-1, and 9-8 overall. The Aggies' record slips to 3-4 in conference play, and 11-9 on the season.
To start the fourth set, Sully switched jerseys and checked in as an outside hitter, while Kara Sherrard took over at libero. Sully played through the first three games as libero, a role she has held for the Gauchos since the start of conference play. However, with Gauchos trailing 2-1, UCSB Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch decided to roll the dice with the pivotal change.
"We were a little bit out of sorts, and I felt like we needed a change," Lantagne Welch said. "It was a gamble to change a couple of people's positions and how we were doing things, but this team just jumped on it and it gave us a ton of momentum."
In the fifth set, the teams played each other close, and Santa Barbara soon got the edge at 8-7. From there, UCSB took a commanding lead after recording four unanswered points. Ali Spindt started the run with a kill, and Shauna Klein was immediately subbed in after the play to take over at the service line.
The sophomore was able to maintain the Gauchos' momentum as she dealt a service ace and helped put UCSB ahead 12-7 after three straight serves.
Davis answered back with a run of their own and put themselves two points shy of UCSB at 13-11.
The Gauchos leaned on their seniors to close out the match, and Katey Thompson and Leah Sully responded. Thompson buried a kill to give UCSB match point, and, fittingly, Sully finished the match with her ninth kill of the night.
Thompson finished the night with 12 kills and 10 total blocks.
To start the match, UCSB exhibited strong overall play, which led to a 25-20 win. The Gauchos took a strong hold of the set when they put up seven unanswered points to jump ahead 16-7. Thompson swung for a pair of kills to start the run, while Ali Barbeau chimed in with two kills of her own.
The Aggies would not go down easy, though, as they were able to cut into the UCSB lead and only trailed 24-20. The Gauchos, however, would not let Davis come any closer as Barbeau closed the set with a kill.
The sophomore outside hitter finished with a match-high 19 kills.
UCSB was able to force the fifth set after they showed offensive dominance in the fourth, as the team attacked for a collective .483 kill percentage.
Sully's move to outside hitter proved be the spark the Gauchos needed to stage their comeback, as she found five kills in game four. With UCSB up 23-19, Sully gave the Gauchos their final two points of the set off kills.
The Gauchos will continue their season on the road next week, as they will visit UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton.
You can follow the volleyball team on Twitter @UCSB_Volleyball to keep up with the Gauchos during their away matches.