Banana Slugs stay close in loss at Cal State Northridge

photo by UCSC Sports Med
photo by UCSC Sports Med

NORTHRIDGE - UC Santa Cruz stayed close to Division I 11th-ranked Cal State Northridge early, but the Matadors' almost flawless hitting prevailed in a 3-0 win (22-25, 19-25, 16-25) Saturday night.

UCSC, the fourth-ranked team in Division III, fell to 14-3 while CSUN improved to 6-3 in the sixth all-time meeting between the two schools and first in 14 years.

The teams opened set one with ties in the first three points before CSUN went on a 12-3 run to take a 15-6 lead. UCSC crept back and tied it at 23 courtesy of a pair of blocks by Justin Fortner and a Matador attack error. Northridge closed out the set with the last three points to go up 1-0.

It was the same story in the second as Northridge went on a 13-6 run after it was tied at 3 to make it 16-9 and UCSC didn't get closer to five points the rest of the set.

In the third set, the Matadors used a steady mix of good serving and hard hitting to gradually pull away and finish the set on a 8-4 run for the sweep.

"We definitively got better as a team and will have plenty film to review with the guys when we get back," said head coach Paul Leon. "SoCal always feels like an extension of home because of the family turn out, which we greatly appreciated this weekend."

Northridge hit. 481 on the night against UCSC's .234. The Matadors hit .571 in each of the last two sets and served 9 total aces to 3 by the Banana Slugs.

Ryan Manley had 8 kills for UCSC while Gino Gamboa and Lake Merchen had 6 kills and 4 digs each. Merchen, the school's career kills leader, became the all-time leader in digs as well and has 522 in his career.

"It was a true team effort this weekend as we got to use our full bench in some aspect on the court," said Leon. We took care of the matches we needed to win and challenged ourselves with high-level competition."

UCSC returns to the court on Friday at Menlo College's tournament.