NEWARK, NJ - Behind 17 kills from Lake Merchen and 16 from Jake Howard, sixth-ranked UC Santa Cruz shook off a slow start to win at #11 Rutgers-Newark 3-1 (17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-18) on the first day of the Golden Dome Invitational. UCSC improved to 2-1 on the season.
The Slugs never led in the opening set. With the game tied at 3-all, the hosts went on a 10-3 run to get a 13-6 lead. The Slugs fought back to get within 2 at 16-14 from a Lake Merchen kill, but Rutgers-Newark finished on a 6-1 run to take game one.
The Slugs opened phenomenally in set two, starting with an 8-4 lead that featured a block from Jake Howard and Raymond Cascio, but allowed the Scarlet Raiders points on four service errors. The margin stayed at four until the hosts scored four straight points to tie it at 13. From there it was a back-and-forth match with five more ties before UCSC finished on a 6-3 run in the set. Lake Merchen had a pair of kills to end it and let UCSC tie the match.
The third sets opened with the teams trading serving errors. A kill by Kyle Donohoe started a 4-0 run that gave UCSC a 5-1 lead. Rutgers-Newark came back to tie it at 7 before UCSC made an 8-3 run to stake a 15-10 lead.The hosts fought back again and got within 2 three times, the last at 23-21. Kills from Donahue and Merchen then gave UCSC the set.
The fourth set opened with both teams staying close. However, with the set tied at 9-all, UCSC went on an 10-2 run midway to make it 19-11 to take control. THe Slugs then doused any Scarlet-Raider comeback to finish off the set and take the win.
"Tonight's win demonstrated our roster depth and our ability to make mid game adjustments against a very good Rutgers team," said coach Paul Leon.
Ryan McLaughlin added a career-high 47 assists to help pace UCSC to a .312 hitting percentage. McLaughlin pushed his career total to 605, passing Slug assistant Mauro Salinas for 5th place on the school's career list. Donahoe also finished in double-figures with 14 kills.
"Ryan set a fantastic game while Kyle played excellent defense and was an offensive force for us when we needed him most," Leon said. "Overall, a successful start to a very difficult road trip."
Corey Pieper led the Scarlet Raiders (0-1) with 19 kills. Rutgers-Newark hit .278 and committed 13 service errors.
The Banana Slugs finish up the Invitational tomorrow afternoon against #15 Juniata and #3 Stevens before finishing their trip in the evening at Div. I New Jersey Institute of Technology.