Men's volleyball sweeps Stevens to reach Division III National Title Game

Men's volleyball sweeps Stevens to reach Division III National Title Game

UNION, N.J. - Behind hard hitting and timely blocking, the UC Santa Cruz men's volleyball team has gone where no team in program history has gone before.

The Banana Slugs hit .265 and unloaded 11 blocks as they swept second-seeded Stevens 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-21) in the NCAA Division III Semifinals.

It is the first NCAA Tournament Final for the UC Santa Cruz. The Banana Slugs, left for dead in March, won their ninth straight match to improve to 21-16.

"This goes back to September. All the sacrifices they had to make to be here, I'm super proud of how they continue to grow together," said head coach Paul Leon about his team. "We are peaking at the right moment."

Raymond Cascio had a team-high 20 kills. Aaron Fox added 9. Justin Fortner, Jacob Shapiro and Fox each had four total blocks in the win.

The Banana Slugs hit .379 through the first two sets, including fighting back through 14 ties in the second to win the last two points and get the quick 2-0 lead.

In set three, the Ducks rallied with a 6-0 run midway to take an 8-4 lead and led by as much as 5 at 13-8. UCSC responded with an 8-1 run to take the lead for good at 16-14. Stevens answered with a run of their own to get within 22-21, but UCSC closed out the match with three straight points, finishing with consecutive solo blocks by Fox and Fortner.

The National Final will pit UCSC against SUNY New Paltz, a 3-1 winner over defending national champion Springfield in the other semifinal. It's a rematch of the last match of this year's Slugfest Tournament on January 13th, where the Hawks beat UCSC 3-1.