Gauchos fall to Trojans on the road in four sets

LOS ANGELES Despite a strong second set, the No. 13 UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball team was defeated in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) play Thursday, losing 3-1 against fifth-ranked USC at the Galen Center. Scores went 30-20, 21-30, 30-25, and 30-18 as the Trojan victory tied the all-time series between the two teams at 45-45.

Jeff Menzel led UCSB (4-10, 2-9 MPSF) in kills with a match high 24 while adding eight digs and three blocks. Cullen Irons had 10 kills and libero Andy McGuire had a match-high 12 digs. The Gauchos had a rough night offensively, hitting just .147 and getting out-blocked 14.5 to 5. They did come alive in the second set, hitting .516 with three errors in 19 attacks. Middles Scott Slaughter and Sam Moisenco each hit a lackluster .167 on the night.

Four players hit in double figures for USC (11-3, 8-2 MPSF). Tony Ciarelli (19), Sean Dennis (15), Austin Zahn (13), and Troy Murphy (11) combined for 58 kills. Riley McKibbin had seven blocks and Dennis led the Trojans defensively with 11 digs.

The Gauchos, who have played just four of their 14 matches away from home, remain on the road to play at top-ranked Pepperdine on Feb. 28 and at Hawai’i on Mar. 5 and Mar. 6. It is the longest road swing for the team this season.

The next home match will be a non-conference tilt against George Mason on Mar. 11 (7 p.m.).