Fear the underdog Gauchos.
UC Santa Barbara will take its historic postseason run all the way to the national championship match as it upset USC in four games in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in University Park, Pa.
Middle attacker Dylan Davis had a season-high 15 kills and was one of three Gauchos with at least 15 kills in the victory. UC Santa Barbara also out-hit USC .394 to. .333, including hitting .500 in the final game.
This was the second time in less than one week the No. 4 seed Gauchos defeated the top-ranked Trojans.
UC Santa Barbara as the No. 7 seed in the conference tournament defeated USC in five games to win the MPSF title and receive the automatic bid to the Final Four. That victory also capped off the Gauchos conference tournament run that featured them defeating top-five nationally ranked teams.
Check out the what the players and coaches had to say afterward in the postmatch news conference.
[Editor’s note: Transcription courtesy of the Penn State athletics department]
UC Santa Barbara news conference
Rick McLaughlin, UC Satana Barbara coach: We knew it was going to be a battle. [Southern California] came to play tonight. The pressure was on there for a pretty long time, but we just hung in there like these guys do. They’re a tough group of guys. They won’t let this season end and we’ve got one more match.
Q: As the No. 4 seed, have you kind of adopted the underdog mentality?
McLaughlin: Whatever seed you give us is fine because we know what we are and we’re okay with that. We’re just going to keep proving it.
Q: How surprised are you to be playing for the championship? Could you imagine this in the beginning of the season?
McLaughlin: Yes, actually. The whole time we kept telling these guys that we could win a championship. Getting our backs against the wall was the key to it. Our whole goal was to get in the playoffs in the beginning because these guys had never been in the playoffs. We did that kind of early and it hurt us because we lost a little bit of our zip. We got it back at the right time because our back was against the wall.
Q: Can you just talk about your familiarity with USC, having played them in the regular season and in postseason?
Andy McGuire, libero: I think we’ve played them about three times in the last three weeks. There was our last regular season match and the playoffs last week. We’ve had a lot of film on them and we know how great they are. We’ve just been able to battle with them and keep playing. We’ve extended the rallies and when we serve the ball like we did tonight it just helps everything out and it’s kind of just in the last two matches we’ve done a great job with that.
Q: Can you talk about your performance tonight? How were you and Cullen [Irons] able to step it up with Jeff [Menzel] hitting the way he was?
Dylan Davis, middle attacker: It was just one of those things. You’re on the court with five other guys around you and when one’s not performing the best, everyone else has to step up. I think everyone else on this team definitely showed their true game tonight and really came out with 100 percent.
Q: How do you guys explain your season? You go 18-14, you beat USC twice in five days and now you’re playing for the title.
Cullen Irons, outside attacker: It went from almost a nightmare there at the end to an almost fantasy world. It’s just been a great two weeks here and we’re just laying it all on the line. We have eight seniors and we know that this is all we’ve got left. There’s just no holding back.
USC news conference
Bill Ferguson, USC coach: First off, I’d just like to thank Penn State for being an unbelievable host and the committee for putting on an unbelievable event. I’m sure it will continue to go that way. I’m sorry we’re not going to be a part of it, but on a whole, I’m very proud of what these guys have accomplished this year. They’ve done just about everything we asked them to do and more. They did it in a manner that was, in our eyes, above our approach- something we talk
about in our program and at our gym all the time.
These are special guys- especially our senior class. We brought them in. The program has been on some hard times and they revived it. They revived the excitement for the alumni, school, and department. They are people that I will forever be proud to be associated with. So I’d like to thank those guys and thank the team. They’ve been unbelievable all year. What they did this regular season was nothing short of amazing.
Now to the match: I could see it going a bunch of different ways, but I never thought in a million years that we would go down missing twenty serves on the end line. That did us in, I think, worse than anything. When you look at our match last week with them, Jeff Menzel killed us, Scott Slaughter killed us, and we did an unbelievable job I thought, keeping Menzel hitting .071. We kept Slaughter under .300. We kept him at .250, which I thought was pretty unreal. We did a real good job there. Cullen Irons killed us and Dylan Davis was nothing short of amazing. Those two guys really gutted it. If you look at the stat lines throughout the night, we were outhitting them until, I believe, the fourth set. We were out-blocking them. But every time we got some momentum, we went back to the [service] line and missed. That gutted us. Last time we played them, everyone on their team that was on the floor hit over three hundred. This time it was .071 for Menzel and .250 for Slaughter. That was great, but Irons and Davis definitely made up for it. Valbuena had big numbers but I don’t know if that was necessarily our downfall. Davis really frustrated us a lot and we just didn’t do a very good job with Irons. It was much the same way the first time we played them early in the season. Irons got to us a little bit, but we righted the ship the second time we played them. The third time we played them he was better, and tonight, he got the point that really hurt us. I think that was the story of the game. I thought Andy McGuire was still pretty good, he’s an unbelievable player. He drives the bus for those guys big-time. I thought when we served, we did okay. We were executing our game plan pretty well. There were times when guys weren’t hitting their spots and that kind of thing. The twenty misses [on serves] just absolutely gutted us. We were just clawing, scraping, and keeping in. Murphy [Troy] had a good match and our middles, [Steven] Shandrick and [Austin] Zahn, were very good. I thought Murphy was great. Tony [Ciarelli] wasn’t real good early, but he dug himself out of a hole. Tri [Bourne] was nothing short of amazing tonight. I knew Tri was going to have a big night and he came through with flying colors for us.
Q: Coach can you talk about how you were able to contain Slaughter and Menzel?
Ferguson: Yeah. For us, on the technical side of things, I thought Murphy matched up against him in the front row well. Murphy did a much better job blocking him. We had Murphy change a little bit. Murphy was jumping out and drifting a little bit when he was blocking last weekend. Tonight, I think one play like that happened, but then he got it going. He had a big stop in the second towards the end on him, which I believed, allowed Murphy to go back and serve out the set. That was the main adjustment. As with Menzel, I thought Riley [McKibbin] did a real good job on him. And really with Menzel it wasn’t about getting stuffs on him. It was more about getting touches and altering his shot, forcing him to hit high and to our defenders. I think Riley got a lot of good touches on it to slow him down and I think our left and middle back did a good job digging him. We didn’t let him tip out of trouble. A lot of times that’s how he gets out of trouble and stays alive. He gets so many sets that he’s going to get blocked and make an error here and there, but he usually is able to tip his way out of trouble. I think we took that away. Henry Cassiday did a pretty good job of it. Our off-blockers did a pretty good job with it as well.
Q: Can you talk about the expectations you had being the No. 1 seed and then going out after one game?
Murphy Troy: It’s tough. We definitely had a lot of expectations. We were very confident in ourselves and we have been all year. We were definitely looking forward to this tournament and it’s definitely tough to go out earlier. [UC] Santa Barbara is a great team and played really well. They out-played us like Ferguson said. We tried to battle, but at the end it just wasn’t enough.
Q: You talked about yesterday if you didn’t win this tournament it would be a failed season. How do you feel about that now?
Troy: I don’t think you can say it’s a failed season. We have a lot of things to be proud of. We did some things this year that haven’t been done in a long time at USC and around the country in general. I’m definitely proud of all the guys. It was a great squad, a great team. It’s unfortunate that it came down to this one match, but other than that, we’re going to have to hold our heads high.
Q: Tri, can you talk about the spark UCSB played with the last two games? Is that something you knew they were capable of based off their early season performance?
Tri Bourne, outside attacker: Yeah, because two years ago we were kind of in the same spot. We knew that it was possible for any team to do that kind of thing. We knew that they could feel it. But unfortunately it’s probably harder to get up for games when you’re on our side of it. We knew that we could pretty much kill them if we played like we did in the regular season. It’s just hard to keep the mindset. They’re not the same team we played in the regular season.