Eighth-ranked Banana Slugs sweep Menlo in season-opener

Eighth-ranked Banana Slugs sweep Menlo in season-opener

SANTA CRUZ- All-American Lake Merchen had nine kills and nine digs to lead UC Santa Cruz to a 3-0 sweep (25-13,25-20, 25-19) over Menlo College Friday night in the Redwood Invitational.

It was UCSC's (1-0) first-ever game in Kaiser Permanente Arena, home of the Santa Cruz Warriors.

The Banana Slugs hit .448 in the first set, opening with a 17-6 lead and quickly dispatching the Oaks (0-1), who were playing the first game in school history.

The second set was more competitive, as the teams traded the first seven points before Menlo gained a two-point lead at 11-9. UCSC tied it at 12-all on Ryan Manley's kill and an ace from Merchen. UCSC edged ahead only for the Oaks to catch up and tie at 17-all. The Slugs then finished the set on a 8-3 run and took set point on a block from Manley and Justin Fortner for a 2-0 set lead.

UCSC trailed 3-1 in the third set before tying on kills by Chris Salas and Manley. UCSC built a 13-7 lead, but a 6-0 Menlo run tied it at 13. The game stayed close until UCSC won four-straight points highlighted by an Evan Kittle service ace that Menlo dug into the 14th row of KP Arena. Menlo fought off two match points until a Menlo service error ended the match.

Raymond Cascio added eight kills and Manley had seven for UCSC. Kittle had 29 assists with seven digs. Freshman Akash Dunbar had 13 of Menlo's 26 kills, while his high school teammate Trey Lake had 26 assists.

The Redwood Invitational continues Saturday with four games.