January 28, 2011

Gauchos Look to Break Cold Streak Against Waves

Jan. 28, 2011

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• The Schedule
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 7 p.m. No. 6 UC Santa Barbara (4-3, 2-2) vs. No. 1 USC (4-0, 4-0) at Rob Gym Series record vs. the Trojans- 54-48 Streak- Lost 4 2010 Series- USC 2-0 Last time out vs. the Trojans- L, 3-1

Friday, January 28, 2011 at 7 p.m.
No. 6 UC Santa Barbara (0-0, 2-1) vs. No. 8 Pepperdine (2-4, 0-4) at Rob Gym Series record vs. the Waves- 32-58 Streak- Lost 10 2010 Series- Pepperdine 2-0 Last time out vs. the Waves- L, 3-2

• Can't Make it to the Court?
UCSB men's volleyball matches can be followed live online for no charge with Gametracker. Log on to UCSBgauchos.com, go to the men's volleyball schedule, and click on the Gametracker link for the match you're interested in. You can follow each point and see player statistics and bios.

• The Week in Review
The Gauchos started off the MPSF season with a four game road swing, featuring visits to UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and Long Beach State. UCSB claimed the match against UC San Diego in straight sets behind senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter's 9 kills and 6 blocks. The Gauchos proceeded to drop their next two matches in identical fashion, falling in straight sets both times. The Gauchos concluded their road trip with a stop at Cal State Northridge where they won in straight sets behind a career night from Jeff Menzel (14 kills, .778 hitting percentage, no errors).

• Championship Pedigree
The Gauchos have already shown improvement over their 2010 season. as UCSB placed second in the Gaucho Collegiate Invitational. The host Gauchos finished in last place in 2010, but advanced to the Championship match against Brigham Young University this year., representing the biggest leap of any team in the tournament. Senior libero Andy McGuire and senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter were named to the All-Tournament Team, and senior outside hitter Cullen Irons had an outstanding Day One, compiling 30 kills in the Gauchos' first two matches.

• Wiped Out by the Waves
The Gauchos enter Friday's match against Pepperdine riding a 10-game losing streak that dates back to February 2006. including a crushing defeat in the MPSF semifinals in the 2007 season. No player on the current Gauchos roster has been a part of a win over the Waves. However, the Waves have yet to win a conference match this season, making this year as good as any to break the streak.

• 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.

• Starting Off Strong
Though the Gauchos have hit a bit of a snag lately, one trend that has continued through the struggles has been their strong defense in the first set. Through the first six matches of the season, UCSB opponents possess a .152 hitting percentage. These include negative percentages against UCLA (-.052) and CSUN (-.100).

•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.