March 4, 2011
Coming off just their second losing streak of the year, the Gauchos needed a victory against Cal State Northridge to avoid losing three straight for the first time all year. The Gauchos got that victory and more, sweeping CSUN 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-15). The loss halted the UCSB losing streak at two, and improved their record to 11-8 with a 9-7 mark in conference play. Northridge's record fell 4-14, 3-10.
At times throughout the season, senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel has shown the ability at times to take over a match. Menzel did just that on Friday night, as he clearly performed at a level even higher than his usually outstanding output. Jeff finished the night with 16 kills, a total impressive on its own in a three-set match. More impressive was his ability to compile those kills despite not receiving many sets once two reserve hitters, junior Blaine Nielsen and senior Todd Travis, came in during the third set to finish the match for the Gauchos. Jeff also recorded three service aces, six digs, and two blocks. He accounted for 20 of the Gauchos' 56 points, 10.5 more than the next highest producer, senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter.
Speaking about Menzel's impressive match, UCSB Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said "Jeff's a physical player.[Cal State Northridge] is a bit of a smaller team, so he matches up really well against them."
Though Jeff was clearly the story on Friday night, other Gauchos had noteworthy performances as well. Senior libero Andy McGuire had a match-high 7 digs, and senior setter Vince Devany had 37 assists. Devany had a streak of seven straight matches with 40+ assists broken, but his 12.3 assists per set were higher than his season average of 11.38 assists per set.
On Wednesday night against Long Beach State, the Gauchos experienced a bit of an anomaly in dropping the first set- they were 16-5 in the first set going into the match. UCSB got back to its strong first set play against CSUN, holding the Matadors to a hitting percentage of .111 for the game. Jeff Menzel recorded five of his kills and an ace in the set. The serving in the first game was notably sloppy- there were four service errors in the first seven points, and there were 10 overall in the game. Senior opposite Cullen Irons and sophomore middle blocker Dylan Davis had 3 blocks apiece.
The second set was by far the tightest set of the night, There were 14 ties and four lead changes over the course of the game. Cal State Northridge led as late as 22-21, but the second set was where Menzel's game shined the brightest. Santa Barbara's native son from San Marcos High School had seven kills in the set, and also had an impressive ace that bounced uncontested off CSUN's Drew Staker's thigh. Devany had 13 assists in the game.
Getting out to an early lead in the third, McLaughlin decided to go to his bench to finish the match. Substitutes Todd Travis and Blaine Nielsen both had encouraging sets- Nielsen had two kills on three attacks to go along with an important block while Travis had four kills and a .571 hitting percentage. The Gauchos only allowed 15 points on the game, holding CSUN to a .129 hitting percentage.
The Gauchos take a bit of a break from conference play, playing in a tournament against Eastern teams Penn State and Lewis before taking a week off for finals week.
A donation to the Gaucho Fund - regardless of the sport it supports - will be part of the One Donation is Gold system. This allows donors to purchase priority/premium seating and parking at UCSB games across several sports in addition to other benefits.
Tune in to UCSB Athletics' weekly radio show Talk'n Gauchos, which airs every Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. on AM 1290 KZSB. The show is broadcast live from the Beachside Bar & Café on Goleta Beach. Fans are encouraged to attend the show for free gear and ticket giveaways and can even e-mail a question in to one of the guests and have it read live over the air. The show also airs live online via audio streaming and fans can click here to check out the entire lineup of live audio streaming online.