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UH faces experienced Gauchos

By Stephen Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 9:05 a.m. HST, Feb 3, 2011

For the UC Santa Barbara volleyball team, every night appears to be senior night.

The Gauchos, who play Hawaii tonight and tomorrow night at the Stan Sheriff Center, field a rotation of experienced players at nearly every position.

"When six of your seven starters are seniors, that's an advantage in any sport," UH head coach Charlie Wade said.

UCSB coach Rick McLaughlin said, "Because we have a lot of seniors, they've made this trip before. It's always really tough going to Hawaii to play, but hopefully we'll be ready to show our best."

In past seasons, outside hitter Jeff Menzel was the Gauchos' go-to attacker. With the emergence of opposite attacker Cullen Irons, the Gauchos now have a go-go offense. Menzel (3.72 kills per set) and Irons (3.96) each have taken 216 swings this season.

The middles also have been threats. Scott Slaughter is averaging 2.10 kills, and Dylan Davis is at 1.45.


» Who: No. 6 UC Santa Barbara (5-4, 3-3 MPSF) vs. No. 10 Hawaii (2-5, 2-2)

» When: 7 p.m. today and tomorrow

» Where: Stan Sheriff Center

» TV: Live on KFVE-TV (both nights)

» Radio: 1420AM

» Tickets: lower level $11; upper-level adult $8, upper senior citizen $7; upper student (grades 4 to high school) $3. UH students free with validated ID.

"Our balance is as good as our passing is," McLaughlin said. "The matches we've passed well, we've had really good sets. If the ball is not passed well, it goes down fast."

The rudder is Andy McGuire, a senior libero.

"He's our leader," McLaughlin said of McGuire, who trained with the U.S. National Team this past summer.

"He's one of the best in the country," UH associate head coach Dan Fisher said.

Topping the Warriors' wish list is to serve to the outside hitters.

"We definitely want to limit how many passes their libero has in serve-receive," Fisher said. "We want to get the ball away from him."

On the other side of the net, the Warriors are seeking stability. What is known is that libero Nick Castello is a reliable passer and defender; Joshua Walker and Jonas Umlauft are powerful pin attackers; and Brennon Dyer will start at one of the middle positions.

The candidates for the other middle are freshman Shane Welch, who stayed home during last week's road trip to focus on his studies; junior Jarrod Lofy; and freshman Michael Taxter.

Of the three, Lofy is the best hitter. Welch is best at closing the block. Taxter, who was recruited as an outside hitter, has had flashes of effectiveness.

Wade said the decision on the middle might be based on the situation. "We'll figure it out," Fisher said.

Walker said the goal is to win the home matches and, at least, split on the road.

"We're a couple of plays away from being 4-0 (in the MPSF)," Wade said. "We started last year 2-2, but we couldn't say we would have been 4-0. This year, it's different. We're literally two plays away from being 4-0."

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