Whether he likes it or not, Jeff Menzel is always in the spotlight. Fortunately for him, it only helps fuel his performance. And, after another stellar season, the junior outside hitter from Santa Barbara is attempting to rewrite the UCSB men’s volleyball record books.
“On the court I love the attention from the opposing fans,” Menzel said. “I love to shut people up by playing. The more they heckle, the more it gets me going.”
But while Menzel thrives on the hype, he really only cares about one thing: winning.
“It’s pretty surreal to be in the record books already, but at the same time I’d gladly give up some of those kills if it meant we were going to the postseason,” Menzel said.
In a season where he led all of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in kills and finished second in kills per set, Menzel draws serious defensive attention when he is on the court. An athletic freak at 6’6″ and 210 pounds, he soars above his competition every time he spikes down a pass from junior setter Vince Devany.
“He is an extremely rare athlete,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said of his soon-to-be senior. “The speed, the explosiveness, the jumping… he’s got it all.”
Menzel’s career numbers in only three years of action are staggering. Among UCSB’s all-time leaders, he currently ranks fourth in kills, third in kill attempts and second in service aces.
After a 2010 campaign where he posted 588 kills on 1353 total attacks with 41 aces — all team-highs — another year like this will land Menzel atop the school record books in both kill categories. Former Gaucho Evan Patak will by all rights maintain his record of 255 career service aces.
“Of course I would love to break the [kills] record, but if I don’t and our senior class takes us deep into the playoffs, I will be a happy man,” Menzel said.
Born and raised right here in Santa Barbara, individual success is nothing new to Menzel. A graduate of San Marcos High School, he was an AVCA High School All-American as a senior and a member of the 2007 U.S. Junior National Team. Opting to stay in Santa Barbara, it’s clear that Menzel does not regret his decision.
“I love being in Santa Barbara. I know it’s close to home but living in Isla Vista is quite different than home no matter where you’re from,” Menzel said.
Not to mention the amazing home court advantage that the rowdy inhabitants of I.V. provide.
“When we play at home, our fans can’t be beat. Our whole team thrives off the atmosphere,” Menzel said.
There is still one title that has eluded Menzel thus far in his career at UCSB: champion. More than anything else, a deep playoff run, maybe even leading to a shot at the national crown, would be the perfect way to finish off his career.
“Being great is representative of winning,” Menzel said. “I’ve never even made the playoffs here at UCSB, but after the strides we made this year, I’m hoping that next year we can change that.”
McLaughlin shares his star player’s optimism.
“The maturing process of this team has accelerated by leaps and bounds this year,” McLaughlin said. “With Jeff and our other seniors, next year we are only going to be better.”
Armed with a roster that features seven seniors next year, the Gauchos have the depth and veteran leadership to make a playoff run. That being said, Menzel’s personal success next year is vital to Santa Barbara’s overall success as a team.
“I’ve always had high expectations for this team. We all do,” Menzel said. “We honestly believe that if we perform like we know we can next year, there is going to be close to no one that can beat us.”