April 5, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - For the first time since 2003, the 14th-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team will not being advancing to postseason play. The Gauchos' hopes were dashed Saturday as they were officially eliminated from extra matches after suffering a 3-0 loss against reigning national champion and ninth-ranked UC Irvine at Robertson Gymnasium.
Scores of the match went 32-30, 30-27, and 30-20 in favor of UC Irvine (14-13, 10-10 MPSF), which clinched a spot in the top eight of the league standings with the victory. It was the fourth loss in a row for UCSB (9-16, 6-14 MPSF).
The Anteaters hit an impressive .429 for the match and got 15 kills apiece out of Jordan DuFault and Jon Steller. Aaron Harrell finished with a match-high five blocks, while libero Brent Asuka totaled a match-best eight digs. Setter Anthony Spittle had 45 assists.
UCSB got a match-high 16 kills from freshman opposite Jeff Menzel, but he was the lone Gaucho with double-figure kill totals. Outside hitter Mike Runkle had eight kills, hit .471, and added five digs. Middle blocker Scott Slaughter hit a team-best .556 with six kills and one error in nine swings. Freshman setter Vince DeVany picked up 34 assists in the loss.
The Gauchos hit .300 as a team, but Irvine hit well over that mark in all three games.
In the opening game, the Anteaters worked themselves to a six-point lead at 27-21 due to a Gaucho serving error. However, UCSB got back into it and tied the set 29-29 on a block by Runkle and Slaughter. Another Slaughter stuff gave the Gauchos their first lead of the game at 30-29 and they could have put away the set but a service error evened it at 30-30. Two consecutive kills by Steller gave the 32-30 win to the Anteaters.
Game two featured 12 tie scores and five lead changes. UCSB produced its best hitting of the night in the frame, posting a .407 attack percentage. It wasn't enough as Irvine edged them with a .419 clip. UCSB led for quite a bit of the game until a bad set led to a 26-26 tie. The Anteaters collected three straight points on a kill by Taylor Wilson, a Gaucho hitting error, and a block by Harrell. Santa Barbara got a point back on a service error, but UCI closed the game out with blocks by Harrell and Steller.
The final set was all Irvine as the Anteaters hit a match-high .538. It was close early, but UCI reeled of four straight points to take a 16-11 lead. The Anteaters continued to increase their lead and Cole Reinholm iced the win for Irvine with a kill.
The top eight finishers in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings advance to the postseason with No. 7 taking on No. 8 in a play-in to the MPSF Tournament. With two regular season matches remaining for all teams, the final standings have not shaken out yet, but all eight postseason spots have been filled after tonight's matches. Long Beach State, Brigham Young, Cal State Northridge, UCLA, Pepperdine, Stanford, UC Irvine, and USC will play after the regular season ends. Long Beach, BYU, and Northridge have claimed at least a three seed and will host a quarterfinal match. The regular season champion will enjoy a first round bye.
UCSB currently sits in 10th place tied with UC San Diego. The last time Santa Barbara did not make it to at least the MPSF Tournament Play-In match was in 2003 when the Gauchos placed ninth following the regular season.
Santa Barbara plays its final two matches of the season at home. The Gauchos host Long Beach State on Friday, Apr. 11 and UC San Diego on Saturday, Apr. 12. Both matches are slated for 7 p.m. starts at Rob Gym.
Saturday's match will be the final career outing for head coach Ken Preston, who is retiring following his 30th season at the helm of the program. It will also be the final career match for seniors Ben Brockman, Theo Brunner, Mike Fisher, and Phil Mathews.
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