THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - On the second day of the Posada Royale Invitational, the Cal Lutheran men's volleyball team stole a set from both No. 5 UC Santa Cruz and Lakeland College before eventually falling 3-1 (25-16, 25-15, 18-25, 26-24) to the Banana Slugs and 3-1 (21-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-19) to the Muskies inside Gilbert Arena.
After facing Division I No. 12 Cal State Northridge and Division III No. 9 NYU in their first two matches, the competition did not get any easier for the Kingsmen, who squared off against No. 5 UC Santa Cruz on Saturday afternoon.
The seasoned Banana Slugs squad jumped out to a 2-0 lead after cruising through the first two sets 25-16 and 25-15, but a young Violet and Gold squad showed a lot of fight and resilience in set number three.
Hunter Horn and Nicholas Oertli set the tone with back-to-back kills for the Kingsmen as they took an early 2-1 lead, but UCSC was able to respond with seven of the next 10 points, capitalizing on numerous CLU attacking errors. The Kingsmen followed with a run of their own, scoring six straight points, highlighted by a pair of Horn kills, to give them an 11-8 lead.
Moments later, Keaton Arutian fired home a service ace, and the Violet and Gold had their biggest lead of the game, up 14-9.
The Kingsmen continued to fight off any UCSC comeback attempt with back-to-back blocks from Michael Campbell and Kristian Gallardo to hold their lead steady at 19-14. Horn came through with a huge solo block to cap off the game, and give CLU its first set victory in program history.
The Kingsmen carried their momentum into the fourth and looked to push the match to a fifth set as they took a 17-14 lead. The Banana Slugs, however, rattled off four straight to regain the lead at 18-17. Both teams would trade points, until with a 25-24 edge, UCSC used a block from Jorge Reyes and Ryan McLaughlin to capture the match victory.
Robert Rutecki and Horn led CLU with 10 kills apiece while Gallardo had a strong all-around game with seven kills, seven digs and five total blocks. Arutian tallied 33 assists in the match and tied for a game-high with two service aces. Horn led the Kingsmen with eight digs.
The Banana Slugs were led by Lake Merchen's eight kills, 30 assists and eight digs from Evan Kittle and five total blocks from Raymond Cascio.
After showing signs of improvement from match to match to start the season, the Violet and Gold looked to put it all together against Lakeland College in the second game of the day.
Their strong play carried over to the first set in which they hit at an exceptional .448 clip, their best hitting percentage in a set so far this season. CLU accounted for 16 kills on 29 total attacks and had just three errors in the opening frame.
After finding themselves trailing 12-9, the Kingsmen went on a 10-2 run to take a commanding 19-14 lead. Gallardo led the rally with three kills while Horn and Rutecki each tallied a kill apiece. Up 24-21, Gallardo capped off the first game with a kill on a set from Arutian to give CLU a 1-0 lead.
The second set was a classic seesaw battle that saw both teams tied midway through at 14-14. The Muskies broke away with a 5-0 spurt that was too much for CLU to overcome, and tied the match at one game apiece.
With momentum on their side, the Muskies rallied late to take the final two sets and complete the comeback.
Gallardo led all players in the game with 18 kills, the most from any Kingsmen this season, and Horn added a 12-kill, 10-dig double-double. Arutian recorded a double-double of his own with 42 assists and a game-high 11 digs, and Campbell finished with three total blocks to go along with six kills.
Lakeland was led by 17 kills from Matt Stolz and 14 kills from Kyle Krogstad. Addison Mertler racked up 39 assists and Christian Frahm led the Muskies with 11 digs.
Cal Lutheran (0-4) heads to Springfield, Ohio for the Wittenberg Invitational where they will face off against the Milwaukee School of Engineering at 3:00 p.m. followed by Wittenberg at 5:00 p.m. this Friday, Jan. 29.
Tournament Central: Inaugural Posada Royale Invitational
Box Score: UCSC 3, CLU 1
Box Score: LC 3, CLU 1
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