ATHERTON - Fourth-ranked UC Santa Cruz won a pair of matches against NAIA teams in the opening day of the Menlo Invitational.
UCSC defeated Benedictine (Ariz.) in a sweep (25-18, 25-21, 32-30) before beating Hope International in 3-1 (25-20, 20-25, 25-13, 25-20) in the afternoon.
"Take away moments against competitive non-Div. III teams are always invaluable. On Friday, we were being challenged on skills that we focused on during practices this week. It was great to see our technical skills applied in a match scenario with us fighting to earn the small-points.," said head coach Paul Leon.
"As always, our bench really stepped up to the challenge and handled themselves well while on the court. We're getting better with each repetition."
Against Benedictine, the Slugs raced to a quick 2-0 lead behind the setting of Shad harris. In the third set however, UCSC hit just .075 after hitting over .200 in each of the prior sets. Benedictine hit three straight points to stave off match point, and the teams traded points for the next dozen serves before UCSC closed out the wild third set.
Against Hope, UCSC continued the block party, opening with three stuffs, but Hope had four blocks themselves. With the set tied at 20, UCSC ran off the last five points courtesy of 4 Errors by the Royals and Merchen Kill.
The second stet was reversed. UCSC rallied from being down five to get within 1, but the Royals outscored UCSC 8-4 the rest of the way to tie the match.
The Slugs were merciless in the third set, opening up an 18-8 lead and racing to win by hitting .370 and holding Hope to -.040. It was the same in the fourth as UCSC hit .300 with 15 kills to .186 by Hope to take the match.
Ryan Manley led UCSC with 13 kills, 12 digs and 2 assisted blocks. Merchen had 12 kills and 12 digs and Harris had a career-high 38 assists to go with11 digs and 2 aces.