Posted: Jan 10, 2020
UC Santa Cruz got two huge wins to close the first day of the 2020 Slug Slam Invitational.
The Banana Slugs-last season's national runner-up- first won a five-set thriller 3-2 (27-25, 23-25, 25-23, 23-25,17-15) over rivals Cal Lutheran before turning around and sweeping Marymount (VA) 25-23, 25-19, 25-22.
UC Santa Cruz improved to 3-1 on the young season with their third-straight win at home.
The Banana Slugs battled to a 2-1 lead against the Kingsmen after three sets, hitting.317 in the match that had 33 ties and 12 lead changes total to that point. The Kingsmen however answered by opening the fourth set on a 4-0 run. UCSC battled back to get within 1 at 12-11, forcing a CLU timeout.
The Kingsmen then built the lead back up to 15-11, but UCSC came back to tie it at 17-all and force another timeout. UCSC crept ahead to lead 23-21, but CLU closed out the set with the last three points on two kills and a UCSC attack error to force a decisive fifth set.
After ten ties, the Kingsmen got to match point at 14-12, but hard-won kills by Ian Pizzuti and Kyle Lutz tied up the game. Another Pizzuti kill gave the Banana Slugs match point, but Patrick Rowe brought CLU level at 15. However, UCSC came back strong, and kills from Aaron Fox and Lutz finished the match to give the Banana Slugs the hard-earned win.
Pizzuti (16) and Fox (14) each had career-highs in kills, while newcomers Rowdy Lennon and Lutz had season-highs with 18 and 14 kills respectively. Fox added a career-high 15 digs to lead the team, and Sam Wittert had 11 digs plus a career-high 60 assists to surpass 900 assists for his career. Overall, UCSC had 73 kills, the most in a match since 2010.
In the nightcap against Marymount, the Banana Slugs showed little signs of fatigue, going up 2 sets to nothing while hitting .290 and .360 in the sets.
After Marymount started Set 3 on a 3-0 run, UCSC rallied with a 3-1 run, punctuated by an ace from Pizzuti.
Eventually UCSC tied it at 21 with back-to-back kills from Ian Dunipace and Pizzuti, forcing a Marymount timeout. Phillip Grote followed with a kill for UCSC's first lead of the set at 22-21, and the Banana Slugs closed out the match on a 3-0 run, with the last two points courtesy Wittert and Zachary Thompson combining for first a block then a kill down the middle.
Thompson finished with a team-high 11 kills and hit .600. Fox added 8 kills and a team-high 11 digs, while Wittert had 35 assists and two more block assists. UCSC hit .295 in the sweep and outblocked the Saints 6-3.
The Slug Slam resumes tomorrow morning at 10:00 am.