The sixth-ranked UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs closed the regular season with two wins Saturday.
UCSC opened the day beating rival Cal Lutheran 3-0 (25-14,25-15, 29-27). They closed Senior Day with another 3-0 win over Benedictine (Ariz.) 25-21, 25-19,25-15.
UCSC improves to 14-5 and await NCAA tournament announcements in three weeks.
In the afternoon game against Cal Lutheran, the Banana Slugs hit .314 to beat the Kingsmen (6-18) for the third time this year. The opening set saw the hosts hit .600 and hold CLU to .000. UCSC finished on a 15-8 run to break open a close game.
The second set stayed close early, until UCSC went on a 12-4 run after it was tied at 7 to lead 19-11 and take control. UCSC also served four aces in the game;three from Lake Merchen and one from Cody Hiroto at set point.
CLU regrouped in the third set, winning the first two points and having a 4-2 lead before UCSC tied it at 4-4. The teams tied at 6 and 7 before CLU went on a run to take a 14-8. UCSC came back and tied it at 18 and 19 but another CLU run put them at set point on Kelly Jew's kill. However, Jew then had a service error and the two teams tied the next four points in a back-and-forth stalemate.
CLU got back to set point at 27-26 on Nick Christy and Grant Nelson combining on a block. UCSC fought back and won the next three points to take the match on kills from Howard and Raymond Cascio and a CLU attack error.
Howard finished with 13 kills to lead UCSC. Merchen added 11 with a season-high five aces.
The Redhawks opened the match with a 3-1 lead before tying it on a kill by Howard and a block from Ryan McLaughlin and Raymond Cascio. Benedictine then regained the lead but UCSC kept close and eventually tied it at 18. After Benedictine regained the lead at 19-18 from Jaron Jones's kill. UCSC responded with a 7-2 run to close the set, finishing on a Merchen kill.
In the second set, UCSC didn't get separation until a 6-0 run midway gave them a 20-13 lead. They ended the set on another kill by Merchen.
The Slugs held Benedictine to a .026 hitting percentage in the third set, but the Redhawks didn't go away quietly. There were four ties early. UCSC however finished on a 10-4 run for the second sweep of the day.
Merchen led the Slugs with 14 kills. Howard had 12 kills in his last home game as well as 4 block assists. Bardeau had 15 digs for 440 in his career, passing assistant coach Mauro Salinas for second on the school's career chart.