FORT COLLINS, Colo. – After a grueling 35-33 first game victory, UCSB lost a close four-set match to Virginia Commonwealth in the teams' Rams Volleyball Classic finale.
Leading the Gauchos on offense were outside hitters Ali Barbeau and Chanel Hoffman with 10 each. Making her third straight start as a freshman, it was Hoffman's first double-digit kills performance in a UCSB uniform.
On defense, the Gauchos were led again by Ali Spindt who recorded 16 digs at libero. In finishing tournament play, she recorded at least 10 scoops in all three of UCSB's matches.
With both teams vying for their first win of the season, the first set featured a marathon of a battle that finished with UCSB on top of a 35-33 score.
The teams exchanged leads throughout the game, as neither had more than a three-point advantage over the other. One of those of those moments came when the Rams went up 19-16 after a Janelle Sykes kill. Undeterred, UCSB quickly responded with five unanswered points to retake the lead at 21-19.
During that stretch, the Gauchos forced two attack errors, including a block from Allie Sullberg and Ali Santi. Hanna Nielson also added a pair of aces, while Barbeau recorded one of her season-high 10 kills.
Later in the game, the teams were still jostling for the lead well past the 25th point until the score was tied at 33-33. From there, Britton Taylor gave the Gauchos set point with a kill, while the victory was later sealed by a Ram attacking error.
This was UCSB's highest scoring set since the NCAA switched from 30-point sets to the current 25-point set in 2008. Since then, UCSB has scored 30 or more points in just four games.
After VCU evened the match with a 25-18 win in the second game, the teams again found themselves in a hotly contested battle in the third.
The Rams took the early lead, but the Gauchos never let the deficit grow past five points. After trailing 8-4, UCSB went on a 4-1 run to get within one point. Barbeau sparked the offensive effort with back-to-back kills, while Hoffman and Sullberg added one each.
Later in the set, UCSB was down 22-17 but put together three straight points to stay in contention. Jaylen Villanueva capped of the run with one of her nine kills in the match.
Noa Nightingale and Sullberg chimed in with a block to keep UCSB close at 24-23, but the Rams would take the 2-1 match lead with block of their own.
Midway through the fourth set, it looked as though the teams would be in yet another tight game, as UCSB were just one point off the lead at 18-17. Before that point, the Gauchos were down by four points until Sullberg and Barbeau recorded consecutive kills.
Despite the effort, though, the Rams scored the set's following six points, which eventually led to their 25-19 win.
The Gauchos will continue their season on the road next week when they travel up to the state capital for the Sacramento State Invitational. Tournament play will start on Friday Sept. 5 when UCSB takes on Loyola Marymount at 4:30 p.m.