Banana Slugs split two matches in Illinois

Banana Slugs split two matches in Illinois

NAPERVILLE, ILLINOIS - The 15th ranked UC Santa Cruz volleyball team split to open a four-match Midwest roadtrip. After being swept by No. 8 North Central (22-25, 23-25, 20-25) the Banana Slugs turned it around and beat Augustana 3-1 (25-15, 25-20, 22-25, 25-21).

The opening set saw the hosts race to a 4-1 lead before UCSC tied it at 4 courtesy of an ace from Naperville native Matthew Nealon. There were three more ties before the Cardinals opened a 16-10 lead and held off UCSC to take the set. Set two was similar, with NCC starting with a 3-0 lead and UCSC fighting back. After NCC went up by six at 15-9, the Banana Slugs got to within two six times and were within 24-23 after a Raymond Cascio kill before NCC outlasted the Slugs to take the set.

Set three began the same way, this time with UCSC spotting the hosts a 5-0 lead. The Banana Slugs crept back to within one on four occasions, but couldn't get over the hump as North Central finished on a 6-2 run for the win.

Kyle Donohoe led UCSC with 11 kills while hitting .320. Jacob Shapiro, from nearby Deerfield, added 7 kills. Nealon (13 assists) and Sam Wittert (12) split time at setter, with Wittert making into the school's career top ten for assists.

Jacob Zemba, who had eight kills against UCSC in their first match on January 12, led the Cardinals with 14 kills on Friday.

In the second match, UCSC opened hitting .300 while holding Augustana to -.062 to easily take the first set. The Vikings opened set two with a 3-2 lead and were up 9-6 when UCSC took a timeout. The Banana Slugs then hit three straight points, tying it at 9 on a block by Donohoe and Justin Fortner, starting a 13-5 run that included three Shapiro kills to open a 19-14 lead before cruising to a 2-0 lead.

Set three started with six ties before the Vikings took control, hitting .237 and serving two aces to keep UCSC at bay.

With UCSC leading 7-5 in the fourth set, the Banana Slugs went on a 4-1 run, punctuated by a pair of Donohoe kills to take an 11-5 lead and force an Augustana timeout. The lead then went to 12-6 when Tennessee Fulks - the third Illinois native on the UCSC roster - served the first Banana Slug ace of the contest. The Slugs rode the momentum to take the set and match.

Shapiro had a double-double. with season-highs of 18 kills and 10 digs to lead UCSC. Fellow freshman Nealon added a season-high 54 assists. 

Overall, UCSC outhit Augustana .328 to .152 and outblocked the Vikings 12-6.

UCSC takes on 13th-ranked MSOE and second-ranked Carthage tomorrow in Wisconsin.