After dropping the first game, UCSB won three consecutive games in front of a rowdy home crowd at Rob Gym on Friday night to beat #5 UCLA 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-20). With two wins over the Bruins in two consecutive matches, the #7 Gauchos have now won three straight matches and sit comfortably in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings with a conference record of 6-4 and an overall record of 8-5.
[media-credit id=20120 align=”alignleft” width=”203″][/media-credit]Senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel led the Gaucho attack with a season-high 18 kills. Senior opposite Cullen Irons added 16 kills, and senior setter Vince Devany put up 46 assists to help UCSB complete the regular season sweep of UCLA (7-7 overall, 2-6 MPSF).
“I’ve been coaching for almost 40 years and I can’t remember the last time UCLA got swept by the Gauchos,” UCLA Head Coach Al Scates said. “UCSB is good. They have been playing together for a while now.”
The Gauchos came out flat, losing the first set of the match with a team hitting percentage of .120. UCLA freshman Gonzalo Quiroga recorded five kills in the opening game. But as the crowd grew, so did the Gauchos’ momentum.
Behind the serving of senior middle blocker Scott Slaughter, UCSB started the second game on an 8-0 run. Then, the Gauchos cruised to a 25-18 victory and Slaughter ended the match with three aces, four kills and a team-high six blocks.
“Vince did a good job spreading the ball around, and our team served well,” Menzel said. “Anybody on our team can go off on any given night with serving. It’s pretty ridiculous. Cullen can swing, Scott has power and Vince’s floating serves can do damage. Our whole game is based on serving and passing.”
UCSB came out to another fast start in the third game, but UCLA hung around to force a tie at 22-22. A monster kill from Irons won the game for the Gauchos and brought the crowd at Rob Gym to its feet.
Consistent serving and solid play from senior libero Andy McGuire led the Gauchos to a win in the fourth game. Menzel, Devany and Slaughter each recorded aces in the fourth set. McGuire had crucial digs that created game-changing kills for UCSB. The Gauchos never let up and won the decisive fourth game by five points.
“We played a little better on Wednesday, but we did what we had to do to win tonight,” Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “We were serving well and Scott Slaughter played great in the middle. We’re improving and that’s what you need to do mid-season. Our goal is to get back to the playoffs. I like where we’re at right now.”
UCSB hosts a two-match series against #2 BYU this week in Rob Gym. The first contest between the Gauchos and Cougars is on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.