March 31, 2011

Gauchos Clinch Playoff Spot With Win Over Tritons

March 31, 2011

Box Score

Santa Barbara, Calif. - Entering Thursday night's match against No. 12 UC San Diego, the eight-ranked Gauchos needed just one win in their final six matches to secure a spot in the MPSF postseason tournament. UCSB did not waste any time at all, dropping the Tritons in straight sets to clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, when they advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling to top-ranked Pepperdine. Game scores for tonights match were 25-17, 25-19, 25-17. With the win, the Gauchos improved to an overall record of 13-10 with a 10-7 conference record. The Gauchos are now 8-2 in matches following a loss. UC San Diego dropped to 8-17, with a 4-14 conference record.

Since UCSB has not reached the postseason since 2007, the playoff berth was the first for practically everyone involved in the program. "It's been the goal since day one," said Head Coach Rick McLaughlin, who came within one game of reaching the playoffs last year in his second season as head coach. "To miss out on the playoffs by one game last year made us want it that much more." The players echoed McLaughlin's sentiments, as senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel said "we should have been there the last three years, but it's good to be there this year."

The match itself was probably not even as close as the scores would indicate, as UC San Diego struggled without senior setter Phil Bannan, their leader in both assists and service aces. The Gauchos spread out their attack over the match, as three Gauchos finished tied for the team lead with seven: senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel, sophomore middle blocker Dylan Davis, and senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter.

For the match, the Gauchos held the Tritons to a lowly .075 hitting percentage, including a team-high .182 clip on 8 kills from Shane Veiga.

UCSB won the first set on the back of two long service rallies from senior oposite Cullen Irons. Though he recorded just a single ace on the night, Irons made it difficult for the Tritons to pass his serves to setter Mike Brunsting. UCSD hit just .034 as a team for the set, while UCSB also received strong games from Slaughter, who recorded three of his four blocks in the first frame, and senior libero Andy McGuire, who accumulated four of his nine total digs in the first set.

In the second set, the game became a little more fluid, as both teams recorded their highest hitting percentages in the second set- UC San Diego at .350 and UCSB at .579. That .579 clip from UCSB also included an 89% conversion rate on sideout points. Dylan Davis had five of his seven kills in the second game, while senior setter Vince Devany had 14 of his 37 assists in the second set.

The third set was all the Gauchos, as they never once relinquished the lead they established on the first point. Senior outside hitter, who came in to relieve Irons, recorded six kills in the set, the highest amount of kills recorded in a single set by any player in the match. Freshman middle blocker Evan Licht chipped in another four in the decisive set.

Though he did not have a poor match by any means, Jeff Menzel had a season-low seven kills- which broke a streak of 14 straight matches in which he reached double digit kills. "I'm not worried about the kills," said Jeff, "we played well as a team and we got the win, which is all that matters." The match was also just the second time all season that the Gauchos have failed to have any player reach 10 or more kills, the other time at Long Beach State on Jan. 18.

The Gauchos turn to host UC Irvine on Friday night, Apr. 1. UCSB lies just a half game ahead of UC Irvine for fourth place, and home court advantage in the first round of the MPSF playoffs, in the conference standings.

To purchase tickets, please call (805) 893-UCSB, visit the Ticket Office located inside the Intercollegiate Athletics building on campus or buy online and print at home by clicking here.

The Intercollegiate Athletics Ticket Office has two parking spaces adjacent to the building and is now open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., making it easier than ever for fans to purchase tickets. The two parking spots, designated specifically for the Ticket Office, are also available during weekday hours, which are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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.

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