PROVIDENCE (1-24) UC Santa Cruz traveled to Rhode Island this weekend, and started their first day of the Johnson & Wales (RI) tournament, ready to show the East Coast just how fierce Banana Slugs can be. Going to five sets in both matches, the Banana Slugs' were victorious in their first match of the day against Endicott College (25-21, 27-25, 19-25, 27-29, 15-10) , but the second match against the hosts slipped out of their reach in the final minutes 25-18, 19-25, 22-25, 25-20, 8-15).
UC Santa Cruz (6-5) gave the Gulls (0-1) their first match, and loss, of the season. Although the Slugs took the first two sets, the Gulls battled to come back in the 3rd and 4th set, forcing the match to go to five. In the fifth set, UCSC was quick to get ahead with a 4-2 lead, but the Gulls continued to fight to stay on the court. Endicott was able to tie the game back at 4-4, and then got within one of the Slugs again at 8-7. However, kills, by Ian Pizzutti, Phillip Grote, and Aaron Fox (all assisted by Sam Wittert) would help to determine the match 3-2 in favor of the Slugs. Fox had 12 kills and 12 digs, Grote contributed 8 total blocks, with three in the final set. Maxwell Mednick came up with a season-high 17 kills. Wittert had 55 assists.
That evening, the Slugs continued to push through their second match of the day against host, Johnson & Wales (1-4). It was another competitive match for UC Santa Cruz, with a fourth set win by UCSC to once again go to five sets, but the Slugs struggled in the fifth set, and came up short UCSC was able to hit a .237 over J&W's .152 in the first set, and at one point led .250 over the Wildcats .000. Tied 2-2 going into the fifth set, hitting percentage was a key factor in the Wildcats' win. The Slugs hit .000 to the Wildcats' .348 in the final set. Fox had 17 more kills to hit a career 250 kills. Wittert put up 51 assists and surpassed the 1,200 mark for his career at UCSC. Mednick had 13 kills with a team-high16 digs.
UC Santa Cruz will play Baruch College (1-2) at 8AM tomorrow morning, and will compete against Stevens Institute of Technology shortly after at 10AM in a NCAA Semifinal rematch.