The Gauchos have upset all the way to crashing the Final Four party.
The No. 7 seed UC Santa Barbara as it defeated No. 1 USC 20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 16-14 on Saturday to win the MPSF championship and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Making its first postseason appearance since 2007, UC Santa Barbara upset the No. 2 seed BYU on the road in the quarterfinals and the No. 6 seed Long Beach State in the semifinals to advance to the title match against top-ranked USC.
Gauchos outside attacker Jeff Menzel had a match-high 28 kills in the victory against the Trojans. Menzel, a First-Team All-American, finished the three-match tournament with a combined 78 kills.
UC Santa Barbara out-hit USC .395 to .315, including having more than a .500 attack percent in both the fourth and fifth game.
USC outside attacker Tony Ciarelli had a team-high 23 kills, while outside attacker Murphy Troy, the MPSF Player of the Year, finished the match with 20 kills.
Despite the loss, it is likely the Trojans will receive the one at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Trojans had the fewest losses of any team in the nation this season. USC, the regular season MPSF championship, also became the first time in 16 years to be ranked No. 1 from the preseason to the end of the regular season.
UC Santa Barbara is one the first double-digit loss teams to advance to the NCAA Tournament in recent history. The Gauchos will likely be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed when the select committee announces the tournament field Sunday afternoon.
The men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament is comprised of Four teams — the three conference champions and one at-large team.
Penn State and Ohio State won their conference championship matches earlier Saturday to receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Both NCAA semifinals will be Thursday and winners will advance to the national championship match Saturday.