FULLERTON - Second-ranked UC Santa Cruz hit .290 in a hard-fought 3-0 sweep (25-20, 25-25-22, 25-16) over Hope International to close out a two game road-trip.
UCSC improved to 10-3 and ran their win streak to seven. Hope of the NAIA fell to 10-9 on the year.
In the first game, UCSC went out to a 14-9 lead before the Royals had five blocks to spur a 7-0 run to take the lead at 16-14. Lake Merchen then had three kills to help tie it at 17 before the Slugs finished the set on a 8-3 run.
In the second set, the teams tied the first ten points before Hope again went to take a 14-10 lead due to four straight attack errors by UCSC. The Slugs then fought back to tie it at 18 on consecutive blocks by Jake Howard, with one assisted by Justin Fortner. After ties on the next three points, the Slugs ended things on a 4-1 run that included two blocks and a kill from both Raymond Cascio and Merchen.
The third game UCSC put everything together, going on a 12-3 run after the game was tied at 11 to make it 23-14. The Royals extended a match with a pair of kills, but after a service error got it to match point, the Slugs finished things off with Kyle Donohoe's kill. The final set was UCSC's best as they hit .429 in the frame and held Hope to just .171 in the game.
Howard led UCSC with 14 kills and Merchen had 13 to go over 700 kills in his career. Merchen also added a team-high 11 digs. UCSC had nine total team blocks. to help keep Hope hitting just .179 in the match.
UCSC doesn't play again for two weeks until they return to Orange County on March 10 to take on Concordia of Irvine.