LA VERNE - UC Santa Cruz opened with two tough losses on the first day of the 2017 Leopard Invitational hosted by La Verne.
In the opener, the Banana Slugs fell 3-1 to Austin College (17-25, 25-16, 18-25, 18-25) before losing the nightcap to Scranton 3-0 (13-25, 21-25, 21-25) to fall to 3-14.
Austin began Game 1 with a 4-0 run and never let UCSC get in a rhythm, holding the Slugs to .128 hitting while hitting .329 themselves in a 25-17 win.
The Slugs flipped things in the second set by opening with a 5-0 run and forcing a Roos timeout. Austin got to 5-2 but that's as close as UCSC let them. Two Erica Allen kills bookended a 12-6 Slug run that made it 17-8. UCSC led by as much as ten when consecutive Kallan Bedard kills made it 22-12 before UCSC eased to a 25-16 win in a set they hit .429.
Two Tatum Novitzky kills and Krysti Photias's ace gave UCSC a 3-0 lead to start set three, but then the Roos went on a 12-1 run that forced a UCSC timeout.
UCSC then responded with a 7-1 run to get within 2 at 13-11. The Slugs were within 1 at 15-14 but the Roos had 3 straight kills themselves to push the lead back to 4 and make the Slugs take a timeout again.
They couldn't find their momentum however and Austin took the 3rd set, hitting .222 to .070 for the Banana Slugs.
Austin opened Game 4 with a 3-1 lead before UCSC tied it on a block by Allen & Sierra Yuen and consecutive kills by Bedard.
The set featured five ties until the 'Roos took control with a 9-2 run to finish the set and win the match.
Austin finished with a .229 hitting percentage to the Slugs' .179, and outblocked UCSC 7.0 - 4.0. Allen led UCSC with season-highs of 10 kills and .444 hitting percentage. Bedard had 9 kills, while Claire Okerlund and Novitzky had 8 each. Photias had team-highs of 26 assists and 3 aces. Monica Lee had a team-high 15 digs, Novitzky had 14 and Hailey McDaniel tied her season-high with 12.
In the second match against Scranton, the Royals broke open a close game by going on a 14-6 run to make it 21-12 before finishing off a 25-17 win, holding the Slugs to a -.085 hitting percentage. The Slugs improved in the second set, opening with a 3-1 lead and maintaining a close game until they led 16-14, However, Scranton then went on a 11-5 run the rest of the way to take the set, including the last four points in a 25-21 win. The Royals outhit UCSC .189 to .114 in the second set.
The third set began even as well. The set had 5 ties and no team able to get a lead more than three points. However after Okerlund's kill tied it at 20, Scranton finished the game and match on a 5-1 run. The Royals overcame the Slugs hitting .219 in the last set by hitting .289 themselves.
For the match, the Royals (22-1) hit .202 and held UCSC to .061 for the match. Scranton outblocked UCSC 5.0-2.0. Allen and Novitzky had 5 kills each. Lee had 20 digs while Novitzky had 14.
Novitzky finished the day tallying her 500th kill and 500th dig, becoming only the fourth Banana Slug in the modern (rally scoring) era to accomplish the feat.
Novitzky joined Nicole Payne (2006-07), Katherine Grow (2009-12) and Kim Rabii (2011-14) in the "500-500" club and now has 507 career kills and 524 career digs.
UCSC plays SCIAC teams Whittier and hosts La Verne on Saturday to close the tournament.