May 7, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - No. 3 UC Santa Barbara's Cinderella run came to end at the hands of the No.8 Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night, falling in a tense, drama-filled five-set championship match by a score of 3-2 (20-25, 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 15-9) at Penn State's Rec Hall.
The Gauchos battled back from a 2-1 game deficit to force a fifth game, but were unable to complete the comeback. Senior opposite Cullen Irons paced the Gaucho's attack, collecting 16 kills on 38 attacks. Senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel had a tough match despite collecting his first double-double of the season (13 kills, 10 digs), finishing with his lowest single-match hitting percentage of the year at .025. Senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter had a strong attacking night for the Gauchos, tallying eight kills and leading the team with a .583 hitting percentage.
Ohio State was led by Shawn Sangrey, who punished the Gauchos defense with 30 kills. Setter Steven Kehoe, named Tournament MVP, recorded 65 assists on the night.In the end, UCSB's inability to stop Sangrey and Grayson Overman proved to be the end of their season. As Irons put it, "Shawn Sangrey,we didn't have an answer. That was just the difference right there, getting kills. He was over .300, almost .400." Sangrey in fact finished with a .389 hitting percentage with 30 kills, while Overman had 12 kills and a match leading .800 hitting percentage.
The loss brought an end to the Gaucho's longest winning streak of the season at four, and also brought an end to their seven-match winning streak against the Buckeyes, who recorded their first win ever against UCSB to claim the championship. UCSB finishes the season with an overall record of 18-15.
In the final matches of their career, a pair of Gauchos set career milestones. Jeff Menzel, a first team All-American and All-MPSF choice, ecliped the 500 kill mark for the third consecutive year, finishing the year with 506 kills. Jeff wraps up his Gaucho career with 2074 kills, third-most in school history. Senior libero Andy McGuire tallied 10 digs on the night, giving him 277 digs on the year. That total gives Andy the top two single-season digit dig totals in school history. Formerly second on the list, Aaron's Mansfield 270 dig campaign in 2004 is now third. It was the fourth match in a row that Andy has recorded double digits.
The national runners-up, UCSB had one member of the All-Tournament team: senior Cullen Irons who, over the weekend, led the team in kills (31) and was second in both blocks (8) and digs (13).
A match that ended in such heartbreak started off with the Gauchos feeling hopeful, as several OSU errors spurred the Gauchos to a first-game victory. Ohio had nine service errors in the game, including three by Kehoe, to go along with five attack errors. In fact, seven of UCSB's first eight points came off of OSU errors. The Buckeyes recorded six errors on their first seven serving attempts. Despite the miscues, the game remained tied as late as 17-17, when back-to-back kills from sophomore middle blocker Dylan Davis, Thursday night's hero, and Scott Slaughter created room to breathe for the Gauchos. Davis, who put a dent in the NCAA record book by recording the highest single-match hitting percentage (.882) in tourney history on Thursday night, had a more quiet night against OSU, finishing with four kills and a .250 hitting percentage. The teams traded points to 23-20, when consecutive kills from Slaughter and Jeff Menzel clinched the set for UCSB.
The second game did not start as fortuitously for the Gauchos, who fell in early hole due to numerous attacking errors. Despite what turned out to be a strong finish, Irons had a bit of a slow start, not picking up his first kill of the match until UCSB was down 3-5 in the second set. Despite the early deficit, the Gauchos fought their way back and were tied up until 19-19. At that point, a Sangrey kill followed by a service ace from John Klanac off the arm of senior outside hitter Trey Valbuena swung the game in favor of the Buckeyes.Valbuena picked up five kills on the night, finishing the tourney with 13 kills overall. OSU never looked back after the ace, claiming six of the seven points following the tie at 19-19. For the game, McGuire picked up half of his 10 blocks, and Irons recorded a solid five kills. OSU picked up seven team blocks during the game.
Things seemed to be looking up for UCSB at the start of the third set, as they rushed out to an early lead, capped off by a Menzel ace that made the score 4-1. Ohio State was undeterred however, going on a run in which they claimed 12 of the following 17 points to make it 13-9. That chasm only grew deeper for UCSB, who never really threatened the rest of the game.
The Gauchos jumped out to a second consecutive early lead in the fourth game, going up 4-2 after the first six points. However, once again UCSB relinquished the lead, as OSU tied it up late in the game at 17-17. Off that tie, back-to-back points by the Gauchos prompted a timeout from OSU coach Pete Hanson. Off the timeout, Scott Slaughter and senior setter Vince Devany teamed up for a block to retain momentum in UCSB's favor. Devany also finished the night with 41 assists, the seventh straight match he has eclipsed the 40-assist mark. A service ace from senior outside hitter Todd Travis that brought the score to 23-19 extinguished any hope of a comeback from the Buckeyes. Another kill from Menzel closed out the set for the Gauchos, ensuring that the national championship would come down to a dramatic fifth set.
The fifth set was as tense as possible for the first 12 points, as the teams literally went tit-for-tat. With the score 6-6 and Dylan Davis serving, a kill from Sangrey was followed by a triple block of an attack from Cullen Irons, swinging the momentum permanently to Ohio State. The Gauchos never recovered, accumulating just three more points in the match as OSU cruised to a 15-9 game victory. The game clinching point came off a triple block of a Menzel attack. Ohio State had a perfect sideout percentage and hit a lofty .714 as a team in the decisive game.
Ohio State claimed their first national championship in program history. UCSB moves to 0-5 in NCAA title matches in school history.
Head Coach Rick McLaughlin did not dwell on the loss, instead praising his team, saying "I'm extremely proud of my team and all of the seniors especially, for just having a great year. It was just an incredible effort by them."
Scott Slaughter similarly praised his team's effort, saying "You can hang your head if you want, but as long as you left it on the court there's absolutely no reason to. I thought that we did that. I thought we left it all on the court. We went to five. There's nothing you can regret."
For the match, UCSB was outhit by OSU .329 to.198. The Gauchos hit above .250 in just one game, while Ohio State was above .250 in four of five games. They were also outblocked as a team 16.5 to 14.0.
In October of 2008, UCSB Athletics launched the Gauchos Give community outreach initiative for all 450 athletes and 20 sports. Gaucho athletes give back to their community through free clinics, helping families during the holidays, providing financial and emotional support during tragedies and touching the lives of youth groups.
Part of the Gauchos Give program allows groups (non-profit, charitable or local businesses) to enjoy games on campus for free. Throughout the year, a large number of tickets are reserved for groups to enjoy a game at no cost. For more information on the Gauchos Give Tickets program, click here or call 805.893.UCSB.
The Gaucho Fund, launched as part of the Dare to Be Great strategic plan, is UCSB Athletics' annual giving program to provide vital funding support for scholarships, academic success and leadership development for Gaucho student-athletes. The Gaucho Fund is the anchor to the Dare to Be Great campaign.