Feb. 26, 2011
The third-ranked Gauchos endured one of their toughest losses of the year on Saturday night, falling to the defending national champs, No. 4 Stanford, in five sets. The Gauchos lost their first five-set match of the year despite holding a 2-0 game lead. The loss, just UCSB's second in their last seven matches, drops their record to 10-7 overall and 8-6 in the MPSF. Stanford improves to 12-4 while holding a 9-4 mark in conference play.
As has been the case all year, the Gauchos came flying out of the gate in the first set. They hit .448 as a team for the game, and never allowed Stanford to hold a lead for the entire set. In the first two sets, both Gaucho victories, Stanford held only one lead.
Though the UCSB attack was once again led by senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel (who led the team with 16 kills) and senior opposite Cullen Irons (15 kills), senior setter Vince Devany managed to spread the ball out to the entire floor especially well on Saturday night. Four Gauchos finished with 10 or more kills, only the second time that has happened all year. Sophomore middle blocker Dylan Davis had 10 kills to go along with his pair of service aces, while senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter racked up 11 kills to go along with his 4 block assists. Devany finished the night with 53 assists and is a good bet to retain his place at the top of the MPSF assist leaderboard. Senior libero Andy McGuire reached double-digits in digs for the second match in a row, racking up 14.
Following the second set, the Gauchos found their attack stagnated by play at the net from the Cardinals. As a team, Stanford outblocked UCSB 12.0 to 6.5. Gus Ellis and Spencer McLachlin tied for the match lead in blocks with 6 apiece. Brad Lawson recorded 25 kills on the night, the highest for any opponent against the Gauchos this year. The Cardinals hit over .500 as a team in the third and fifth games, and reciprocated the Gauchos early-game dominance by never relinquishing the lead in the fourth or fifth games.
The loss dropped the Gauchos to sixth in the MPSF standings, though they are still firmly in the playoff picture. They have four more wins over seventh-place Hawai'i, though Hawai'i has four matches in hand over the Gauchos.
Next week, the Gauchos host a pair of Southern California rivals. On Wednesday, Mar. 2, the Gauchos will try to get back on track as they host Long Beach State. On Friday, Mar. 4, UCSB welcomes the CSUN Matadors to Rob Gym.
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Launched in January of 2009, the BE Great initiative is dedicated to maximizing leadership ability, strong on-campus interaction and general welfare for all 450 student-athletes and Intercollegiate Athletics staff at UC Santa Barbara. BE Great also focuses on personal and career development, diversity and social awareness and ensuring academic success. UCSB boasts an 83% student-athlete graduation rate.