SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The Stevenson University men's volleyball team suffered a pair of defeats on Saturday in day two of the Slug Slam hosted by UC Santa Cruz at Kaiser Permanente Arena. The Mustangs were upended by Cal Lutheran in the morning, before dropping the nightcap to the host and eighth-ranked Banana Slugs.
Cal Lutheran (1-1) won by scores of 25-20, 21-25, 25-12, 25-19. Against Santa Cruz (6-0), the set scores were 25-23, 25-11, 25-19. The pair of losses dropped the Mustangs record to 2-2 on the young season.
In the first match of the day Stevenson was led by ten kills each from Shorts and junior Jason Gardner, and freshman Logan Smiley. Freshman Aleks Melbardis continued his strong start to the year dishing out 31 assists in the match as the Mustangs hit .116 for the match.
The two sides exchanged points to start the match as a kill from Reynolds tied the score at 4-4. Stevenson would take their largest lead of the opening set at 11-8 after an attack error by Cal Lutheran Andrew Reina. From that on the rest of the set was controlled by the Kingsmen as they used runs of 5-0, 7-1, and 5-1 to close out the frame.
Set number two once again went back-and-forth to start as the first 20 points were spilt evenly between the sides. Four consecutive service aces from Shorts put the Mustangs in front 14-10 and caused a Cal Lutheran timeout. A kill from Michael Campbell cut the deficit to 18-16 for the Kingsmen. That was the closest that they could get, as Stevenson opened the lead out to 23-16 on a kill by Gardner. Cal Lutheran dug in some from there as they reeled off three-straight points bringing the score to 23-19, but kills from Shorts and Gardner stopped the rally to end the set.
The Kingsmen opened the third set strong as they jumped out to a 10-3 lead. Gardner then picked up another kill and a ball-handling error got the Mustangs to within 10-5. Cal Lutheran never let up from there as they picked up 15 of the next 22 points to wrap up the set.
Stevenson went into the fourth set needing to win to prolong the match and got off to a good start taking a 9-8 edge off a Shorts kill. The Kingsmen responded with a 7-2 push to open up a 15-11 lead. From that point on the Mustangs never were able to get the deficit under four as Cal Lutheran held leads of 19-15 and 21-17, before wrapping the set and the match on a Stevenson attack error.
Match number two on the day against UC Santa Cruz saw Stevenson be led by Shorts and Smiley who each posted nine kills. Reynolds hit .357 and totaled seven kills on 14 opportunities. Junior Jared Chin took over the role of handing out assists as he recorded 23 in the contest. As a team the Mustangs hit .132 and totaled ten block assists.
Stevenson held their own early on against the eighth-ranked Banana Slugs as a service ace from Chin leveled things at 7-7. Santa Cruz responded by scoring the next three points to jump ahead 10-7. A kill by Shorts and a pair of Banana Slugs attack errors by Chris Salas and Ryan Manley made the score even at 18-18. Smiley would have his attack blocked on the ensuing point to send the hosts back in front at 19-18. From there they would keep just enough distance to end the set on an error by Chin.
The middle frame started off slow for the Mustangs as they fell behind 12-3. A service error by Evan Kittle got the score down to 15-7, but Stevenson could never really get a rally started and an attack error by Reynolds brought the set to a close.
Set number three looked good early for the Mustangs as a kill from Shorts got the visitors to within one at 7-6. A 3-1 spurt by the Banana Slugs opened the margin up to 10-7. Stevenson would cut the lead down to 16-14 after a kill by freshman Garrett Weigel. The home team ripped off the next five points to go ahead 21-14. The Mustangs did not go down without a fight as kills by Shorts, Smiley and Reynolds capped off a 5-0 push to close the gap to 22-19. Unfortunately, for Stevenson it would not be enough as the hosts got the next three points to end the match.
The Mustangs return to action on Friday January, 19 for a tri-match at Marymount University. First, they will square off with the host No. 14 Saints at 2pm. Then, the second contest of the day will see them battle third-ranked and 2016 national champion SUNY New Paltz at 4:30pm.