SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - Over the weekend at the Wittenberg Invitational, the Cal Lutheran men's volleyball team inched closer to its first NCAA victory, playing a trio of five-set matches despite falling in each. The Kingsmen faced off with a pair of American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top-15 teams, taking the Milwaukee School of Engineering to five sets.
MSOE def. CLU 3-2 (21-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-21, 17-15):
On Friday to start the weekend of competition, Cal Lutheran jumped out to a 2-0 set lead over Milwaukee School of Engineering before the Raiders rallied for the final three to steal the match. Hunter Horn went off for 23 kills on 47 swings to notch a .319 hitting percentage while Robert Rutecki added 10 kills and Michael Campbell finished with nine. Doing the setting, Keaton Arutian handed out 51 assists on the 57 CLU kills. A quartet of players reached double figure digs with Jamal Balkhi pacing the group with 14. Campbell and Nicholas Oertli each had a solo stop and CLU teamed up for 12 block assists as well. Overall, the Kingsmen hit at a .201 clip and recorded 60 digs.
WITT def. CLU 3-2 (27-25, 19-25, 25-22, 19-25, 15-11):
The night cap pitted CLU against tournament host Wittenberg. An extra-point first set went the way of the Tigers before the Kingsmen evened things at a set apiece with a 25-19 game two win. The teams exchanged each of the next two sets before CLU fell by a 15-11 margin in the final game. Kristian Gallardo led the attack with 25 kills in 53 swings for a .302 hitting percentage and Horn again notched double digit kills with 16. Arutian and Nick Shoemate split the setting duties with 23 and 21 assists apiece, respectively. Balkhi again paced the defensive unit with 29 of the 65 team digs and Rutecki added 12. CLU teamed up for 31 block assists including eight from Campbell and six by Horn.
No. 14 MSJ def. CLU 3-2 (18-25, 25-15, 20-25, 23-25, 15-11):
Saturday morning started with another five-set showing although CLU came up short in the final game again by the same score. The Kingsmen won the first and fourth games by 25-18 and 25-23 margins. A trio of players earned double digit kills for the Violet and Gold. Horn recorded an 18-kill, 14-dog double-double while Mikey Esper and Rutecki finished with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Arutian handed out 35 assists. Esper was the most accurate hitter with a .409 percentage and just two errors in 22 attempts. The only solo stop of the match came from Oertli who added six of the 21 block assists for the Kingsmen.
No. 7 Carthage def. CLU (25-13, 25-19, 25-15):
Saturday ended with a 19-assist, 10-dig double-double from Shoemate and an 11-kill showing from Horn. Shoemate also notched the only solo stop of the match for CLU and Campbell and Rutecki teamed up for the lone block assist against Carthage.
Notables: The Wittenberg Invitational was the first of two out-of-state tournament trips for the Kingsmen in 2016.
Next Up: Cal Lutheran (0-8) will be back on the West Coast to play Santa Barbara City College at SBCC on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 6:00 p.m.