MENLO PARK - UC Santa Cruz played their third five-game match in a week. This time however, the Banana Slugs broke through with a hard-fought 3-2 win over local rival Menlo (12-25, 25-18, 15-25, 25-21, 15-12).
UCSC improves to 4-10.
"I am so beyond excited," said head coach Gabby Houston afterwards. "This win was so big for us after going to five twice where we played well and fought back. To do it tonight and win against a good team, the team's progress has made me so happy. I'm so proud of them."
The match started close but Menlo closed the first set with a 14-5 run and held UCSC to .033 on 30 attempts to take a 1-0 lead 25-12. UCSC responded by opening up a 15-4 lead in set two, punctuated by Alexandria Everett's ace. The hosts however went on a 13-8 run to get within 23-17. Maddie Fowler responded with a kill to get to set point and Jordan Kirchner delivered a kill to win the set 25-18 and tie the match.
The third set had four ties early before Menlo went on a 5-0 run to make it 11-6 and force a UCSC timeout. UCSC got the next 2 points, but Menlo finished on a 12-7 run to win the set 25-15.
In the fourth set, UCSC opened a slight 18-13 lead before Menlo's digging and an ace by Menlo's Nicole DiMartino produced a 5-0 run to tie it. After it was tied at 19, UCSC went on a 3-0 run to make it 22-19 courtesy of two Fowler kills and a Claire Okerlund ace. Another kill from Fowler gave the Banana Slugs the set at 25-21.
In the deciding fifth set, UCSC jumped to a 2-0 lead on blocks from Kirchner and Okerlund/Everett before the Oaks tied it on consecutive kills. Back-to-back kills from Fowler and Okerlund gave UCSC a 5-2 lead and made Menlo take a timeout.
The Banana Slugs kept their focus however, running their lead to 8-3 and 12-5. Menlo ran off the next five points however to get within 12-10 before Fowler once again broke the run. UCSC finished with a block by Kirschner and a Menlo attack error gave them the win.
Fowler and Okerlund each finished with 12 kills. Cassie Nickel had 3 aces and a career-high 30 digs. Everett assisted on 8 of the Slugs' 10 total blocks.
UCSC hits the road for a pair of games in Southern California next weekend, beginning Friday at St. Katherine.