Highlanders Top Banana Slugs in Five

Highlanders Top Banana Slugs in Five

NEWARK (1-21) – The Banana Slugs took on NCAA Division I New Jersey Institute of Technology in the Banana Slugs' third match of the day. The Banana Slugs came back from a two set deficit but fell in five 3-2.

In their last match, the Banana Slugs lost 3-0 to NCAA Division III #3 Stevens Institute of Technology earlier today in Newark while the Highlanders defeated Kean University 3-0 yesterday in Newark.

In the first set, the Banana Slugs would start the set with the first two points – one on a Raymond Cascio kill and one on a service ace. The two point lead would occur on two other occasions; the second occasion at 16-14 on a Kyle Donohue kill. The Highlanders would take the lead for good, at 18-17, on a service ace. The Highlanders would take their largest lead of the set at five on two occasions; the second occasion at set point on a Jabarry Goldridge kill. The Highlanders won the first set 25-20 and took a 1-0 lead in the match.

In the second set, the Banana Slugs would score the first point of the set. The one point lead was the largest of the set for the Banana Slugs as the Highlanders responded with a 7-2 spurt, capped by a service ace, to take the lead for good. The Banana Slugs would come as close as three, at 16-13, on a Highlanders' attack error. The Highlanders would take their largest lead of the set at seven on three occasions; the third occasion at set point on a Raymond Kowalski kill. The Highlanders won the second set 25-18 and took a 2-0 lead in the match.

"After 2 long matches in a single day already, our uphill battle didn't get any easier. We had to reframe our mindset to play Division I  New Jersey IT," head coach aul Leon said. "Though we were playing exceptionally well in Game 1 and 2, our players were patient for their opportunity to capitalize."

In the third set, the two teams would trade the lead back and forth for the first twenty two serves. The Banana Slugs would take the lead for good at 12-11 on a Lake Merchen kill. The closest the Highlanders would come would be one, at 16-15, on a Banana Slugs' attack error. The Banana Slugs would take their largest lead of the set on two occasions; the second occasion at set point on a Merchen kill. The Banana Slugs won the third set 25-18 and trimmed the Highlanders' match lead to 2-1.

The fourth set was incredibly tight with both teams trading points, and the lead, back and forth for the first thirty two serves. The Banana Slugs would take the lead for good, at 17-16, on a Raymond Cascio kill. The Banana Slugs would gain their largest lead of the set at four on two occasions; the second occasion at 23-19 on a Howard kill. The Banana Slugs won the fourth set 25-22 and tied the match at 2-2.

In the fifth set, the Highlanders started the set with three consecutive points with all three coming on attack errors by the Banana Slugs. The Banana Slugs would respond with a 5-0 spurt, capped by a Merchen kill, to take a 5-3 lead. The two point lead was the largest of the set for the Banana Slugs. The Highlanders would get back into the set and would take the lead for good at 6-5 on a service ace. The Banana Slugs would tie the set at 10-10 on a Highlanders' attack error. The Highlanders would gain their largest lead of the set at four on two occasions; the second occasion at 14-10 on a Luke Robbe kill. The Highlanders won the fifth set 15-12 and won the match 3-2. The loss marked the Banana Slugs' second in a row and earned the Banana Slugs a split for their time in The Garden State.

For UC Santa Cruz, Merchen had a match-high twenty-one kills and for New Jersey Tech, Goodridge had also twenty-one kills. Ryan McLaughlin had a match high forty five assists for UC Santa Cruz and Ricardo Whitaker had forty four for New Jersey Tech. Merchen and Jonathan Santos led the Banana Slugs with a match high nine digs and Shannon Heckman also had nine digs for the Highlanders.

"We showed great resilience and won Game 3 and 4 in stride. Game 5 was very exhilarating and though we ended up losing the close match, our facial expressions and body language said otherwise," said Leon. "We demonstrated championship character in the face of adversity and we ultimately grew even closer as a team."

For the match, UC Santa Cruz had a .198 hitting percentage with the best percentage coming in the third set at .444 while New Jersey Tech had a .298 hitting percentage with the best percentage coming in the first set at .480. The Highlanders had six more service aces (10-4) than did the Banana Slugs.

The Banana Slugs will now have thirteen days before their next match. The next match for the Banana Slugs is February 3rd as they take on Medaille College at noon in Rochester. The match will be a part of the Golden Flyer Invitational hosted by Nazareth College.