Nov. 20, 2006
Santa Barbara, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball program received National Letters of Intent from four high school seniors during the NCAA's early signing period. The announcement was made Monday by head coach Ken Preston. Ben Douglas (Mountain View, Calif.), Jeff Menzel (Santa Barbara, Calif.), Blaine Nielsen (Corona del Mar, Calif.), and Jake Scalise (San Marcos, Calif.) have committed to play for the Gauchos in 2008.
Douglas is a 6'6" outside hitter from Mountain View High School. A member of the Spartans' varsity team since he was a freshman, Douglas is in his fourth year with the Bay to Bay Volleyball Club.
"Ben has been hurt for a year and is just now becoming healthy," said Preston. "He is a good jumper with solid size and he has tremendous potential. I believe he has a bright future."
Menzel is a local standout from San Marcos High School. The 6'5" opposite/outside hitter is a two-time All-CIF honoree and a 2006 All-Channel League First Team member. A versatile athlete, Menzel is also a first team all-league basketball player and a wide receiver on the Royals' football team.
"I am exceptionally pleased that Jeff has chosen to stay home and play volleyball for us," said Preston. "Jeff is very gifted athletically. I think he is a natural to fill the void that will be left by Evan Patak's (opposite, 6'7", senior) graduation. Jeff has the potential to dominate at the net and follow some of the great opposites we've had like Evan and Donny Harris (1994-97). His future is unlimited."
Menzel's sister, Erica, played for the Gauchos' women's squad from 2000-03 and was a two-time All-Big West First Team pick as well as an all-region selection in 2002.
Nielsen is a 6'4" outside hitter out of Corona del Mar High School. A 2006 All-Pacific Coast League selection, Nielsen captained the Sea Kings to a league title and a second place finish in CIF Division II. In 2005, Corona del Mar won the CIF crown. At the club level, Nielsen captained Balboa Bay to Junior Olympics bronze medals in 2005 and 2006.
"Blaine comes from several winning programs and is an outstanding player and a perfect fit for UCSB," said Preston. "He is a born leader that will add a lot of energy and production to our team."
Scalise is a 6'2" outside hitter from Mission Hills High School of the Division II Valley League. An all-league first team and San Diego County all-section pick, Scalise was also tabbed Mission Hills' MVP. An excellent student, he is a two-time member of the league's all-academic team.
"Jake has an unbelievable ability to jump," said Preston. "He needs to work on his passing and arm swing, but with his athleticism, I think he will be a tremendous asset. He is an excellent student and is a great fit for our program."
UCSB finished the 2006 season with a 13-16 overall record and placed eighth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with a 9-13 mark. Preston, entering his 29th season leading the Gauchos, lost just two players to graduation as the team returns its top six kill leaders and starting setter.
UCSB opens its 2007 campaign with an exhibition match against Thompson Rivers University on January 2 at 7 p.m. in Robertson Gymnasium.