April 8, 2011
Santa Barbara, Calif - Coming off an upset at the hands of No. 15 Pacific on Thursday night, the No. 6 Gauchos dished out an upset of their own on Senior Night at the Thunderdome, defeating the Stanford Cardinal by a score of 3-1. Game scores were 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, 25-16. With the win, the Gauchos record improves to 14-12, 11-9 in MPSF play, while Stanford falls to 17-8, 13-7 MPSF. UCSB was a led by a pair of seniors on Senior Night, outside hitter Jeff Menzel and opposite Cullen Irons both recorded season highs in kills woth 26 and 23, respectively. Senior setter Vince Devany also benefitted from the strong play from the outsides, finishing with 58 assists, his second-highest total on the year.
If the playoffs would have started before today's matches, UCSB would have drawn Stanford in its quarterfinal match. Falling to the Cardinal in a tight, five-set match back in February, the Gauchos looked eager this time to prove they could top Stanford from the word "go."
Though nobody knew Jeff Menzel's first set was just a prelude of what was to come, it was still something to be reckoned with. Jeff recorded 7 kills on 9 attacks with no errors (hitting or serving), for one of his cleanest games of the year. Senior setter Vince Devany compiled 15 assists in the first frame, which ended on a strong attack from Irons that ricocheted off of the Stanford defensive wall and into the stands. The Gauchos hit a fluid .393 as a team, and held Stanford to just a .240 hitting percentage.
Though the Gauchos dropped the second set, they rallied back from the jaws of defeat to make it competitive. Down 24-20, the Gauchos rode a service clinic from senior outside hitter Trey Valbuena, who recorded a key late service ace that made the match 24-23 before a Spencer McLachlin kill ended UCSB's hopes of a comeback. Irons still managed to rack up six kills in the frame, while Menzel collected another seven.
The third set was one of the tightest frames the Gauchos have participated in all year. From 8-8 to 19-19, the teams virtually traded every point back and forth before UCSB was able to distance itself after a couple Stanford miscues coupled with another strong set from outsides Menzel and Irons, who tallied six and seven kills in the set, respectively.
The decisive fourth set was somewhat of a departure from the rest of the match. Before the fourth set, no lead had grown above four for either team. The Gauchos appeared to run away with the game following a pair of impressive blocks from senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter, who had an impressive game of his own, even though it was buried in the stat sheet behind Menzel's and Iron's numbers. Scott finished with eight kills on just 10 attacks with a single error, finished with a .700 hitting percentage and chipping in four blocks, which tied him with sophomore Dylan Davis for the team lead. Menzel saved his best for last in the final set, recording eight kills, including the game clincher.
Asked about his teams 'Jekyll and Hyde' play, Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said "I can't explain it. We let one go last night, but we got at it tonight and I'm real proud of this win. When these two teams get together, we play some great matches."
The Gauchos finish up their regular season by heading south to take on MPSF rivals Pepperdine and USC on the road.
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