April 29, 2011
SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -
Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 7 p.m.
at USC's Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (16-14, 11-11)
at No. 1 USC (23-2, 20-2)
Series record vs. the Trojans- 54-50
Streak- Lost 6
2010 Series- USC 2-0
2011 Series- USC 2-0
Last time out vs. the Trojans- L, 3-0
Can't Make it to the Court?
MPSF Tournament hosts USC will provide free live streaming of all playoff matches this week. The Championship match can be viewed by following this link:- http://www.usctrojans.com/allaccess/?media=243007. USC commentators Dustin Avol and Mark Beltran will be behind the mic.
Gauchos All Over the All-MPSF
For the second consecutive year, the Gauchos had four players named to the All-MPSF team. Jeff Menzel (1st team, fourth in MPSF kills), Scott Slaughter (2nd team, leader in MPSF hitting percentage), Andy McGuire (2nd team, fourth in MPSF digs), and Vince Devany (honorable mention, second in MPSF assists) all represented the Gauchos in this year's awards.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of the Gaucho's playoff run was the naming of the AVCA All-American team on Thursday. UCSB had two recipients of All-American honors: senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel and senior libero Andy McGuire. Menzel was a first team selection after averaging 4.17 kills per game over the season. McGuire, a second-team choice, was one of just two liberos elected to either squad.
Will the Glass Slipper Fit?
The Gauchos have effectively become the official "Cinderella" team of this year's MPSF playoffs. To advance to the championship, UCSB had to defeat a pair of teams against whom they had a combined 1-4 record. To claim the MPSF title, they'll also have to beat the Trojans, who have been ranked first in the nation for virtually the entire year and against whom they have a lengthy losing streak of six games that stretches back to the 2009 season.
The Year Against the Trojans
So far, UCSB has had a year to forget against the Trojans. Already entering the season with a 4-match losing streak, the Gauchos fell in both regular season matches to their rivals from the south. In their first match-up on Jan. 26, USC took down the Gauchos in straight sets. Senior opposite Cullen Irons paced the Gauchos with 14 kills, which actually led the match. However the Gauchos defense allowed USC to swing at a .493 clip for the match. In the last regular season match of the season, USC again bested the Gauchos in straight sets. Scott Slaughter had an impressive showing, racking up a season-high 14 kills on a sky-high .875 hitting percentage. That was not enough though, as the Trojans outblocked UCSB 12.5 to 3.0 as a team. So far this year, the Gauchos have been unable to win a game against USC.
Scouting the Trojans
As the unanimously top-ranked team in the nation, the Trojans do not have many weak spots on their roster. They boast the conference player of the year in Murphy Troy, who was named to the All-America First Team for the second time in his career. Troy leads USC in both kills, points, and aces. Setter Riley McKibbin joined Troy on the first team after leading the MPSF in assists at 12.04 per game. Tony Ciarelli made the All-America second-team for the second time in his career after compiling 33 aces on the year. USC tied for the most players represented on the All-America team. In the two matches against UCSB, the Trojans have shown they can beat you by outhitting you, as they did in January, or by playing lockdown defense, as they did in the last match of the season.
UCSB's Playoff Run
To get to the Conference Championship, the Gauchos had to defeat two teams who had given them fits all year. In the quarterfinal match at BYU, Jeff Menzel didn't care that BYU was on a 7-match winning streak and hadn't lost a match at home all year. Menzel led the match in both kills (27, season high) and digs (8). The victory came despite strong matches from outsides Robb Stowell (19 kills) and Taylor Sander (15 kills) and a match-high 9 blocks from middle blocker Futi Tavana. Topping BYU 3-1, UCSB set its sights on Long Beach State. Menzel once again had a dominant match, leading all players with 23 kills, while Scott Slaughter turned in 11 kills on a .786 hitting percentage. The 49ers were held to just a .226 team hitting percentage.
Where Menzel Goes, So Go the Gauchos
UCSB needed outside hitter Jeff Menzel to step up in the playoffs and he has done so and then some. In matches where Jeff fails to record 10 kills, the Gauchos are just 1-3, including losses to USC and their semi-final opponent, Long Beach State.
Digging Up a Storm
Senior libero Andy McGuire, a second-team choice on both the All-MPSF and All-America teams is capping off one of the greatest defensive careers in school history. Andy's play has especially come on as of late. McGuire has recorded seven or more digs in seven out of his eight past matches. Last season, he set the single-season dig record with 322 digs.
The Gauchos enter Thursday's match ranked fifth in the nation, their highest ranking since they tied for the same position with Long Beach State on Mar. 7.
Gauchos in the Conference Top-10
A number of Gauchos finished the regular season high up on the conference leaderboard. Senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter led the conference in hitting percentage at .505. Senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel finished fourth in the nation in kills and kills per game, seventh in total points, and 10th in service aces. Senior opposite Cullen Irons was ninth in the conference in kills and 10th in kills per game. Senior libero Andy McGuire finished fourth in the conference in digs and digs per game.
Both UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State entered Thursday's semifinal match having upset higher seeds in their quarterfinal match. The Gauchos knocked off the second-ranked BYU Cougars, while the 49ers topped the third-ranked Stanford Cardinal, who were also the defending national champs.
Throughout the season, UCSB has shown an uncanny ability to bounce back from losses, a trend that continued last week when the Gauchos topped BYU after a loss to Pepperdine to close out the season. On the year, UCSB is 10-4 in matches following a loss.
Though Jeff Menzel's solid attacking has been consistent all year (including double-digits kills in 26 of 30 matches, and 14 consecutive matches at one point), he saved his best work for the last few matches of the season. Menzel has recorded 19+ kills in six of his last seven matches, including a season-high 27 kills last weekend against No. 2 BYU and 26 against No. 3 Stanford. For his efforts against BYU, Jeff was named the ucsbgauchos.com "Gaucho of the Week." Jeff play's did not falter a bit after his strong playoff debut, leading the match with 23 kills in the semifinal tilt against Long Beach State. In that match, Jeff eclipsed the 2,000 career-kill mark, currently sitting at 2,021 kills.
The end of the 2011 regular season marked the end of the careers of one of the most storied senior classes in Gaucho history. Outside hitter Jeff Menzel finished the regular season with 1,998 kills (3rd most in school history) and 130 service aces (2nd most in school history). Setter Vince Devany finishes with 4,436 assists, good for third all time. Libero Andy McGuire compiled 913 digs, second-most in school history.
Irons Joins the 300 Club
This year, the Gauchos had two 300-kill players for the first time since 2008 when then-freshman Jeff Menzel and Theo Brunner both finished above that mark. This year, Menzel (team-leading 453) and senior opposite Cullen Irons (351 kills) led the way for UCSB. After a bit of inconsistent play, it seems Irons has found the form that led him to be part of one of the most formidable attacking duos in the nation alongside Jeff Menzel. Cullen recorded a season-high 23 kills against Stanford on Apr. 8 and has reached 8+ kills in six of his past seven matches-averaging 12.5 kills per match over that span.
Over the past few weeks, senior middle blocker, and the Gauchos quick-hit specialist, Scott Slaughter has shown the ability to show up for big games. In the final match of the season against USC, Scott had 14 kills and an .875 hitting percentage, while recording 11 kills at a .786 clip against Long Beach State. Scott leads the Gauchos in hitting percentage at .504 (conference leader) and blocks (100).
Dylan Davis is sometimes forgotten as the only underclassmen in a starting lineup full of seniors. But the sophomore middle blocker has shown the pedigree that made him a star recruit for the class of 2013 along with setter Oliver Deutschman. Dylan is second on the team in starts (29), fourth in kills (166), second in hitting percentage (.479) and second in blocks (86). Davis has shown himself to be an adept quick-hitter as well, recording as many as 13 kills in a match.