It’s time for the Gauchos to bring the noise.
The UCSB men’s volleyball team, currently ranked sixth in the nation, hosts #1 USC tonight at Robertson Gymnasium in its first home conference match of the season. Coming off of a dominant 3-0 win over conference opponent Cal State Northridge, UCSB (4-3 overall, 2-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) is looking to hand the Trojans their first loss of the season.
[media-credit id=20281 align=”alignleft” width=”149″][/media-credit]“We’re excited to finally get back in front of our Locos,” senior Jeff Menzel said. “It will be fun kicking some Trojan ass on our home court.”
UCSB began the 2011 regular season by escaping its four-game road trip against its conference foes with a .500 record. The MPSF is arguably the most competitive volleyball conference in the country, with USC predicted to lead the group that also includes last year’s national championship — the winning Stanford squad.
“Huge game,” senior Scott Slaughter said. “We need to control our side of the net and take care of what we need to do. It’s a matter of jumping on them early. We get some great hecklers at our home games. I expect this match to go the distance in an all out battle.”
At 4-0, the Trojans have had the best start for the school since 1995. Senior opposite hitter Murphy Troy leads USC in kills. He was selected as MPSF Player of the Week and the AVCA National Player of the Week after leading the squad to two victories over nationally ranked MPSF opponents. The Trojans were picked by the preseason coaches’ poll to win the conference this season.
“They’re number one for a reason,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “USC has a very talented team. They returned almost all their starters, and they’re on a roll right now. But we’ll bring a fight.”
Senior outside hitters Menzel and Cullen Irons are on an offensive tear right now. Each had hitting percentages of over .700 in the team’s last match at Northridge. The duo combined for 30 kills in a Gaucho win over the Matadors.
But the Gauchos know that tonight’s matchup demands a total team effort to pull out a victory. Senior setter Vince Devany, who dished out 40 assists last match at CSUN, will be key to running an effective Gaucho offense.
“We know they are good, but we know they can be beat if we play well,” Menzel said. “We have all the tools to win. We need to pass the ball well and win the serving game. We always have the offense to win games, but if Vince is limited from bad passes, teams have an easier time blocking. It all depends on us.”
UCSB split its two matches against USC in preseason tournaments. Tonight’s matchup will be the first regular season competition between the two schools.
The match begins at 7 p.m. After USC, the Gauchos go on to host Pepperdine on Friday 28 at 7 p.m. in another MPSF home match.