No. 6 Gauchos Battle Top-Ranked USC on Wednesday at Robertson Gym

Jan. 25, 2011

The Schedule
Match No. 8
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 6 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 1 USC
At UCSB's Robertson Gymnasium

Match No. 9
Friday, January 28, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
No. 6 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 8 Pepperdine

At UCSB's Robertson Gymnasium

This Week
The sixth-ranked UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team returns home face top-ranked USC on Wednesday night and eighth-ranked Pepperdine on Friday. The Gauchos will be playing their first home matches of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation schedule and their first home contests of any kind since they played BYU in the championship match of the Gaucho Invitational on Jan. 8.

The Gaucho Record
UCSB will enter its Wednesday night match against the Trojans with an overall record of 4-3 and a 2-2 mark in the MPSF. The Gauchos are coming off of one of their most impressive performances of the year, a 3-0 wipeout of Cal State Northridge on Jan. 21. In that game, Santa Barbara won at the Matadome 25-22, 25-9 and 25-20. The win over Northridge ended a two-game losing streak.

Home, At Last
After playing their first four matches of the MPSF season on the road, the Gauchos will return home for five of their next eight. While a match against No. 1 and 4-0 USC is no small task, at least it will be played in familiar surroundings. Following this week's schedule, UCSB will travel for a pair of encounters at Hawaii on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 and then one at UCLA on Feb. 9. The Gauchos will then return to Robertson Gym for a return-match with the Bruins (Feb. 11) and a pair of matches against BYU (Feb. 17 and Feb. 18).

The Man Of Iron
The beard has been lopped off, but senior Cullen Irons hasn't shown any ill-effects. After struggling in a Feb. 18 loss at Long Beach State, Irons bounced back with one of his best matches in UCSB's win at Cal State Northridge on Friday. The 6-foot-8 senior from Hanford recorded 16 kills in the three-game match to go along with a career-best .714 hitting percentage. Irons had just one error in his 21 attempts against the Matadors. He entered the match in the Valley in a flat-footed tie with Jeff Menzel for the team-lead in total kills and he now has 86, two more than his teammate. Overall, Irons is now hitting .333 on the season. He is also second on the team in total blocks with 34.

Menzel, Not To Be Forgotten
While Jeff Menzel has fallen behind Cullen Irons for the team-lead in kills, his match at Cal State Northridge was nothing to sneeze at. Menzel pounded out 14 kills in 18 attempts and had no errors. His near-perfect night ended with a .778 hitting percentage. On the season, Santa Barbara's native son has 84 kills and is hitting .329, second on the team.

Trey Muy Valbuena
Senior Trey Valbuena was yet another Gaucho who came alive in the win at Northridge. Valbuena had 10 kills and just one error in 13 attempts, a personal-best hitting percentage of .692. The Huntington Beach native is giving UCSB a solid additional option to go along with Cullen Irons, Jeff Menzel, Scott Slaughter and Dylan Davis. He has 35 kills and is hitting .271 on the season.

The Batting Race
If the battle between Scott Slaughter and Dylan Davis were for the National League batting title, the duo would have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Slaughter, a senior, and Davis, a sophomore, are battling for UCSB's batting title, so-to-speak. Slaughter, who is third on the team with 41 kills, is hitting a sparkling .540 through seven matches. He has just seven errors in his 63 attempts. Davis meanwhile is fifth on the team with 32 kills and he is hitting a paltry .463 with seven errors in 54 attempts.

Setting Them Up
Senior Vince Devany leads the team in assists in 2011. Man, talk about an understatement. Devany has 235 of UCSB's 267 assists on the season. In fact, the native of San Ramon, Calif., has 88.1% of the Gauchos total sets, so you can be pretty sure that if a ball goes up on Santa Barbara's side and is pounded home, it was sent up by Devany.