UCSB run continues with MPSF title
Gauchos stop No. 1 USC to earn automatic bid to NCAA tourney
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Jeff Menzel had 28 kills to lead No. 5 UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team to a 20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 16-14 upset against top-ranked USC in the championship match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament on Saturday in USC’s Galen Center.
With the victory, the Gauchos (17-14) -- the seventh seed in the MPSF tourney -- become the MPSF’s automatic qualifier into the NCAA Championships on May 5 and 7 in State College, Pa.
USC (23-3) now must hope to earn the at-large selection into the NCAA Final Four, which will be announced on Sunday.
UCSB’s victory ended USC’s 17-match home winning streak and was the Gauchos first victory against the Trojans after six consecutive losses.
It was the third consecutive upset victory in the MPSF Tournament for UC Santa Barbara, which finished seventh in the MPSF standings and concluded their regular season two weeks ago with a 3-0 loss to USC in the Galen Center. Last week, the Gauchos upset No. 2-seeded BYU in the MPSF tourney quarterfinals and then on Thursday they beat sixth-seeded Long Beach State in the semis.
In the match, UCSB outhit USC, .395 to .315, while the Trojans had more blocks (9.0 to 6.5) and aces (5 to 3).
Menzel, named the tourney’s MVP, hit .396. Cullen Irons added 15 kills and 12 digs, Scott Slaughter had 10 kills (hitting .500), Dylan Davis had nine kills (hitting .462) and four blocks, Trey Valbuena hit .455 with six kills and seven digs and Andy McGuire had 14 digs. Slaughter and Valbuena joined Menzel on the MPSF All-Tournament team.
For USC, Tony Ciarelli had 23 kills (hitting .419) and seven digs, Murphy Troy added 20 kills and three aces, Tri Bourne had 10 kills and five blocks, Austin Zahn had eight kills (hitting .357), Steven Shandrick had eight kills and five blocks, Henry Cassiday had 13 digs and Riley McKibbin had nine digs. Ciarelli and Troy were named to the MPSF All-Tournament team.
USC ran off four consecutive points to open up a 9-5 lead in the first set and was never threatened the rest of the way (the Trojans served three aces in the set). In the second set, UCSB scored three consecutive points to go up 7-4 and although the Trojans pulled within a point several times, they couldn’t catch up as the Gauchos hit .533. The third set see-sawed until USC tallied four unanswered points with Brad Keenan serving to make it 22-18, giving the Trojans all the cushion they needed. The fourth set was tied at 8-8 before the Gauchos steadily pulled away while hitting .588 and getting 3.5 blocks. USC held an 8-6 lead in the fifth set, but UCSB scored the next three points to move ahead 9-8 and then went up 13-11 before the Trojans tied it at 13-13. But a Trojan serving error followed by a Slaughter kill on an overpass ended the match.
“We’re a whole different team than we were two weeks ago,” said UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. “Our desire has never stopped and it is all coming together at the right time. We are excited to head back to Pennsylvania.”