April 9, 2010

No. 11 Sweeps No. 9 Penn State, Faces Tough Final Weekend Against Hawaii

April 9, 2010

Box Score

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The No. 11 UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team might not have clinched its spot in the MPSF playoffs as of yet, but the Gauchos know they can play with any team in the country.

Three Gauchos hit .400 or better as UCSB (12-15) took down No. 9 Penn State in straight sets Friday night at Rob Gym, 30-26, 30-25, and 30-22, in non-conference play.

Scott Slaughter matched his career high with an .833 (10-0-12) hitting percentage and was complemented by Dylan Davis' .700 (7-0-10) rate and Blaine Nielsen's .462 (7-1-13) clip. Vince Devany totaled 37 assists on the night while libero Andy McGuire scooped nine digs.

Penn State, which came in leading the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, dropped to 20-6 overall. Joe Sunder contributed 16 kills while Will Price and Max Lipsitz added nine kills apiece. Sunder and Dennis Del Valle each had 10 digs.

"It will take two wins against Hawaii to secure a spot in the playoffs," said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin, "It was a good game, one of the best of the year. We were able to serve well which makes everything easier."

The Gauchos trailed by two early in the first set, finally tying the match on a kill and subsequent ace from Davis, 12-12. UCSB mounted a four-point advantage after kills from Todd Travis, Davis, and Slaughter, making it 23-19. Penn State was unable to get any closer than three the rest of the way as Santa Barbara took advantage of the Nittany Lions' nine hitting errors during the set, taking the 1-0 lead with a 30-26 victory. UCSB committed only two team errors during the set, hitting .345 (12-2-29) as a squad.

Penn State opened up a four point lead in the second set, as a heavy presence at the net caused the Gauchos to convert only four of their first 14 attack attempts to open the frame. Down 9-7, UCSB rallied with kills from Jeff Menzel and Slaughter and a block from Devany to take the lead, 10-9. The Gauchos would slip their lead to three after Davis followed a quick set kill with another ace, making it 17-14. PSU would crawl back within two after a Menzel error, but a serving error and a resounding block from Nielsen and Davis opened the Gaucho lead to 24-20. PSU would bring the lead back to two, but an ace from Nielsen and a sneaky kill from Menzel gave the Gauchos a 30-25 set two victory.

Slaughter hit at a perfect rate through the first two sets, connecting on all nine of his attack attempts while the freshman, Davis, contributed six kills on seven attempts (.857).

Penn State jumped out to a 16-14 lead in the third and final frame, but subsequently lost the lead by giving up eight straight points to the Gauchos, exacerbated by four of its own hitting errors. Up 21-16, UCSB coasted to the finish, using a .387 team hitting percentage to put Penn State to bed, 30-22, in the final set.

The last time UCSB and Penn State met was on March 12, 2007, when the Nittany Lions won 30-24, 30-28, 28-30, 19-30, and 19-17. Opposite hitter Evan Patak led the Gauchos with 30 kills, while middle Theo Brunner totaled 20 kills, hit .760, and had five blocks.

Coming into the night, the Gauchos trailed UC Irvine and Long Beach State by a half match for eighth place in the MPSF standings. With UCSB's match being a non-conference affair, all the Gauchos could do was wait and see how they would stack up once the night ended. UC Irvine defeated UC San Diego in straight sets, 30-23, 30-13, and 30-21, giving the Anteaters a full match advantage over Santa Barbara with two matches to play. LBSU fell in five sets against UCLA.

UCSB will finish its regular season at home next weekend as it takes on No. 5 Hawaii at Rob Gym Friday and Saturday. Both matches start at 7 p.m. Hawaii has already punched its ticket to the MPSF Tournament.

Tickets for all matches this season are available by calling 805.893.UCSB, visiting the Ticket Office located inside the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, or by purchasing online and printing at home.

In 2009, UCSB Athletics unveiled the BE Great initiative. BE Great 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.

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