UNION, N.J. -
The fairytale run of UC Santa Cruz's volleyball team ended in the national title match in disappointment.
The Banana Slugs fell 3-1 to SUNY New Paltz (25-23, 18-25, 17-25, 15-25) at Kean University Saturday night.
The Hawks, who also beat UCSC 3-1 in January, won their second national title in four years and finished 28-7. The Banana Slugs finish 21-17, becoming just the seventh different school to reach a Division III final and first to do so as an unranked team.
"We didn't expect to be here to be completely honest, and when we did get here we wanted to prove everyone wrong about us," said senior Kyle Donohoe, who was named to the All-Tournament team along with Raymond Cascio.
"These seniors left more than just a runner-up trophy: They left a legacy for our underclassmen. This is going to put us on the map and on the national stage for future years." said head coach Paul Leon, the youngest coach to take a team to a Division lll final and a player in the first NCAA tournament in 2012.
"I'm hoping that we continue to replicate the same formula. Take the ingredients and create something in their own image."
In set one, UCSC started hot with a 5-0 start that forced New Paltz to call a time-out. The Hawks settled into their rhythm after that, and eventually tied it at 16 all. The Slugs responded and held off the big runs with timely blocks before Cascio put away a big kill to take the first set.
After that however, the Hawks never looked back. They hit a combined .474 in winning sets two and three.
UCSC matched New Paltz point-for-point in set four hoping to take it to a fifth. However, the Hawks ran off a 7-1 run to make it 19-11, before ending the match by scoring 6 of the last 10 points.
New Paltz outhit UCSC .362 to .078 on the night and had 47 digs to UCSC's 31.
Cascio led UC Santa Cruz with 13 kills, finishing his career with 1,059. Donohoe added 7. Sam Wittert had 23 assists to pass 800 dimes in his career.
Max Garris had a team-high 9 digs and set a new NCAA Tournament record with 51 in four matches.