No. 2 USC Too Much For No. 9 UCSB, Gauchos Fall in Five Sets

Feb. 5, 2010

Box Score

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The No. 9 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team fought back from a 2-1 deficit but could not overcome No. 2 USC, falling to the Trojans in five sets in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play Friday night at the Thunderdome. Set scores were 30-27, 22-30, 30-24, 26-30, and 15-10 in favor of USC.

Jeff Menzel paced the Gauchos (4-7 overall, 4-4 MPSF) with 29 kills, three aces, six digs, and a season high 33.5 total points on the night. Scott Slaughter swung at a .619 clip, connecting on 14 of his 21 attempts with only a single error. Cullen Irons had 17 kills and eight digs. Vince Devany dished-out a match-high 61 assists.

Three players tallied double-digit kill totals for USC (7-3 overall, 5-2 MPSF), led by Tony Ciarelli (18), Murphy Troy (16) and Tri Bourne (13). Hunter Current led the Trojans in hitting percentage at .417 (7-2-12). Austin Zahn had a solid night, connecting on nine of his 20 attempts with only two errors (.350).

Down by as much as five early in the first set, three consecutive kills by Menzel and a serving error by the Trojans brought the Gauchos back to even at 22-22. Ciarelli responded with a kill followed by hitting error from Irons, giving the Trojans a two-point cushion. Irons connected on his next attempt but a serving error by Menzel and a pair of kills from Bourne gave USC a 27-23 lead. The Gauchos would battle back to make it 29-27, but Zahn used a floater on his next attack to deflate the Gauchos as USC took the first set, 30-27.

UCSB's Sam Moisenco subbed in for Dylan Davis at the middle blocker position prior to the second set, immediately making an impact by notching a pair of blocks on the first two points of the set. The Gauchos would win six out of the next nine points, punctuated by a straight-down kill from Menzel that caused USC to take a timeout while trailing 8-4. The Gauchos would eventually increase their lead to nine at 21-12, but three consecutive points by USC would force UCSB into taking a timeout leading 21-15. That would be as close as the Trojans would get, however, as the Gauchos out-hit USC.345 (14-4-29) to .031 (12-11-32) to take the set 30-22. Slaughter connected on five of his six swing attempts and the Gauchos added 5.5 blocks as a team.

In the third set, the teams traded points until a kill by Zahn and a Menzel hitting error gave the Trojans a slight 10-8 lead. Menzel found the floor on his next attempt, but a Troy kill followed by three successive kills from Ciarelli increased USC's lead to 14-9. UCSB would battle back to make it a one-point game at 20-19 after a kill and an ace from Menzel, but a pair of Gaucho serving errors followed by a pair of dual blocks from Troy and Hunter Current would make it 25-20 USC. The teams would trade points the rest of the set, but UCSB would run out of room, finally dropping the set 30-24 to the Trojans.

The Gauchos would lead by as much as three in the fourth set before the Trojans caught them at 19-19. After a Trojan serving error, Moisenco connected with an ace to give the Gauchos a 21-19 cushion. Current and Ciarelli answered with kills out of the timeout, but a Trojan hitting error, a block from Slaughter, and consecutive kills from Menzel would give the Gauchos a 25-22 lead. The Trojans responded by winning three of the next four points, making it 26-25 UCSB. After a timeout, a block from Moisenco and Irons followed by an ace from Menzel gave the Gauchos a 29-26 lead. Menzel would fault on his next service, but Ciarelli returned the favor, allowing the Gauchos to take the fourth frame, 30-26.

The Gauchos opened the fifth and final frame by connecting on their first three swing attempts to take an early 3-1 lead. The Trojans would take the next six points on a kill and a block from Zahn, a pair of hitting errors by Menzel, an ace by Current, and a team-block for a 7-3 lead. After the teams traded service errors, kills by Irons and Menzel, split by a block by Slaughter, brought the Gauchos back within one at 7-8.

USC would increase their lead back to four after winning the next three points on a Slaughter error and kills by Bourne and Zahn. Irons would answer with a kill to make it 11-8, but that is as close as the Gauchos would get the rest of the way, as a pair of kills by Ciarelli and a Current block hung the Gauchos out to dry, giving USC the 15-10 victory.

The Gauchos are now 1-6 this season in matches that have advanced to the fifth set, losing five of those matches at home. Interestingly enough, UCSB is 1-6 at home this season as well.

The Gauchos are on the road next week as they take on Long Beach State and UC San Diego next Friday and Saturday, February 12 and 13, respectively.

UCSB's next home match is February 17th versus UCLA at Rob Gym. Match time is set for 7 p.m.