Gauchos facing win-or-stay-home scenario

Win and you’re in.

That’s the mantra for the ninth-ranked UCSB men’s volleyball team this weekend as it must beat visiting Hawaii on Friday and Saturday to have a chance to make the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament for the first time in three years.

First serve for both matches is at 7 p.m.

Going into the final weekend of the regular season, the Gauchos stand in ninth place at 8-12, one game behind UC Irvine for the eighth and final postseason berth. To qualify, they need to sweep Hawaii and hope Irvine loses to either last-place Pacific or conference leader Stanford.

UCSB holds the tiebreaker advantage over the Anteaters based on sweeping their two matches.

The weekend is also critical for Hawaii. The Warriors (17-8, 13-7), currently tied for second with Cal State Northridge, need to win both matches to earn a home match for the quarterfinals.


Beating No. 5-ranked Hawaii two times is going to be a difficult task, but second-year UCSB coach Rick McLaughlin said his players are fired up for the challenge.

“Our players are focused on doing what they need to do to make the playoffs,” he said. “That has been their goal the entire year and we feel like we are a good enough team to be in the playoffs.”

The Gauchos demonstrated that point in a sweep against ninth-ranked Penn State last week. That result gave them a huge boost after a tough five-set loss at Cal State Northridge a couple of days earlier.

“The Northridge loss was very tough,” McLaughlin said. “We had every chance to win that match and we fell short. It was huge that we could respond the way we did against Penn State. We needed to.”

McLaughlin hopes his team can ride the wave of momentum from the Penn State win into this weekend’s matches at Rob Gym.

“I think our win against Penn State was one of our best matches of the year. If we can play the same way against the Warriors, we have a shot,” he said.

This weekend’s matches will feature the top two kill leaders in the country. UCSB’s 6-6 junior Jeff Menzel is No. 1 with an average of 5.15 kills per game. Jonas Umlauft, Hawaii’s 6-9 freshman outside hitter from Germany, is next with a 5.07 average.

Hawaii ranks third in the country in kills per game at 16.05, while UCSB is 10th at 15.41.

Two former local high school stars have contributed to Hawaii’s success. Ric Cervantes, a senior out of Santa Barbara, is the Warriors’ starting libero (2.48 digs per game, .969 serve reception average), while Brennon Dyer, a Dos Pueblos alum, is a junior outside hitter (.382 hitting average).

It’s been a crazy season for the Gauchos. They had a better record on the road and played in a league-high 11 five-set matches, winning three.

“Our entire team has continued to improve,” McLaughlin said. “Our freshman, Dylan Davis, is showing that he will be a major force to come in this league. Our setter, Vince Devany, has become the floor leader that we’ve needed. Our libero, Andy McGuire, is overlooked a lot when discussing the top liberos in the country but I would have him near or at the top of my list.

“It has been a total team effort for us the entire year,” he continued. “ We need everyone to step up every night in the MPSF or you will lose. That’s why it is the toughest league in the country for any sport, and that is where we want to be.”

Saturday will be Senior Night. Opposite hitter Jake Rosener and middle Sam Moisenco will be honored before the match.