The UCSB men’s volleyball team completed a successful East Coast road trip Saturday when they were crowned the 2010 Morgan Classic tournament champions. The Gauchos dominated their opponents, beating Springfield College in straight sets on Friday before also sweeping Ohio State in the championship game on Saturday.
“It feels pretty good to get those wins. There were only two matches but it was good competition and we got some of our swagger back heading into the Irvine game on Wednesday,” junior middle blocker Scott Slaughter said.
Santa Barbara went 3-0 on its East Coast swing and did not drop a set in any of those games, winning nine straight sets. On Thursday, UCSB swept Harvard College in a non-conference match. The #9 Gauchos are now 9-8 overall and above .500 for the first time this season.
“We love taking trips anywhere. It’s always fun for us and we always have a great time anywhere we go,” junior outside hitter Jeff Menzel said of the road trip.
Menzel led the way for the Gauchos in the championship match, hitting at an impressive .452 clip against Ohio State. The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation leader in kills per game connected with 20 kills and three aces in the championship match while hitting at a season-high 45 percent. Junior opposite Cullen Irons added 15 kills and junior setter Vince Devany dished out a match-high 58 assists.
The middle blocking tandem of Slaughter and senior Sam Moisenco spearheaded a Santa Barbara front line that blocked 26 attempts over the two weekend tournament games. Currently fifth in the MPSF in opponents hitting percentage, the Gauchos stifled the Ohio State offense, holding the Buckeyes to a .291 hitting percentage.
“It’s always fun to play teams you usually don’t get to face,” Slaughter said. “Our goal is to make playoffs and make a deep run, so it’s a good chance to see what the East Coast has to offer because we could potentially see Ohio State down the road at some point.”
The first set proved to be a battle, and the Gauchos found themselves down to the Buckeyes late, facing a 29-30 deficit. A Menzel kill kept the Gauchos alive before the squad faced game point again at 31-32. However, successive kills from Menzel before a game-ending smash by Irons ended the set in favor of the Gauchos, 34-32.
It was the second straight match in which it took more than 30 points to win the first set for UCSB. Against Springfield College on Friday, it took a 39-point effort to win the first set over the Pride, 39-37.
“Our experience that a lot of other teams don’t have of playing in so many game fives definitely helps us with keeping our composure in pressure situations,” Slaughter said.
The second set of the championship match featured another good battle, with UCSB again coming up clutch in extra points, winning 32-30. Tired and ready to come back to the West Coast, the Gauchos hit a stellar .679 with no errors in the third and final set to beat the Buckeyes 30-17 and win the Hall of Fame Classic Championship.
“Overall we just took the weekend as an opportunity to get better and improve. Also, it was a great chance to show those poor Celtic lovers how the West Coast plays ball,” Menzel said with a laugh.