by Sandy Evsanaa
NEW PLATZ, NY - The UC Santa Cruz Men's volleyball played two matches back-to-back on Sunday morning against two ranked teams; the New Paltz Hawks and Dominican University Stars. Even though it was a double loss on UC Santa Cruz's side, the team still managed to show their strength and potential to the East Coast.
Match #1-vs. SUNY New Paltz Hawks
The first set began with a kill from Hawks starter Matthew Grace followed by an ace and a bad set, raising their score to 0-3. As the first set reached its halfway point, UCSC began to pick up the pace as they came in strong with kills by Lake Merchen and Raymond Cascio, and with the service errors from the hosts. However the score was 23-25 for New Paltz as the first set came to a close.
By the time the second set rolled around, UCSC was chasing the New Paltz Hawks hot on their heels with tie after tie. The score was 12-12 halfway through the second set, but this streak was soon broken when New Paltz delivered two kills and gained three points from attack and service errors, bringing their score to 25-22, although Merchen managed to squeeze in two kills before the set was over.
Things started to heat up when the third set came, with UC Santa Cruz delivering five kills and adding in New Paltz's numerous service and attack errors, brought the Slugs to within 15-21 . The attacks from New Paltz was relentless however as three kills from Grace closed the final set ended with a Slug loss of 20-25.
Match #2-vs. Dominican Stars
The first set started strong with Jonathan Santos and Lake Merchen sharing setter duties and Raymond Cascio making a block, brought the score to a tie of 5-5 in the first half of the set. The Stars gained three points from two kills and a service error, but the Banana Slugs soon came back behind kills served by Merchen to Ryan Manley and New Yorker Kyle Donohoe. The set ended with a Dominican lead of 23-26.
The second set wasn't looking good as Dominican gained five straight points after UCSC led 2-1, but Santa Cruz was hot behind their heels as Merchen delivered six assists, while Donohoe made a block with the help of Justin Fortner to make it 19-23 before the set ended with a score of 19-25.
Things got heated in set three, with four ties as UCSC delivered four kills while Dominican followed with kills as well, bringing the score to 5-5. With UCSC trailing 9-10, Domincan took control with a 5-0 run and the third set ended with a Dominican win of 17-25.
Merchen dished a career-high twenty-two assists. Santos had five assists and 15 digs. Donohoe, Cascio and Chris Salas each finished with 6 kills.
UCSC (21-9) returns to California for the rest of the year, beginning with next weekend's Cal Lutheran torunament.