THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - The Cal Lutheran men's volleyball team dropped a heartbreaker on Saturday night after they rallied from an 0-2 deficit only to fall 3-2 (25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 19-25, 17-15) against UC Merced inside Gilbert Arena.
CLU jumped out to an early lead in the first set with four straight points highlighted by a kill and an ace from captain Hunter Horn, but UC Merced rallied back with eight of the next 10 points to take a 9-6 lead.
The Bobcats were connecting well throughout the set, hitting .241 with 13 kills on 29 attempts in the game while the Violet and Gold hit just .067 with eight kills. Horn led the Kingsmen with four kills, using crafty attacks to find open spots on the court, and Michael Campbell added two.
With the score tied 21-21, UC Merced strung together four straight points to take the game and a 1-0 lead in the match.
In the second, CLU struggled hitting the ball with 10 attacking errors and the Bobcats used their momentum to carry a sizeable lead throughout the set. A bright spot for the Kingsmen was senior Nolan Forghani who entered the game and immediately recorded a block assist along with Keaton Arutian. The play sparked the Violet and Gold, who notched back-to-back blocks coming from the pairings of Nicholas Oertli and Horn along with Kristian Gallardo and Arutian.
The Bobcats, however, remained in control and took the second set 25-20 to take a 2-0 lead on CLU.
Instead of succumbing to a sweep, the Kingsmen regrouped and displayed an ample amount of heart and hustle to climb back into the match.
With the Violet and Gold trailing 16-13 in the third set, Horn rallied the troops with a pair of kills and a UC Merced attacking error knotted things up at 16-16.
Both teams traded points until, with the score tied 19-19, Horn and Oertli recorded back-to-back kills to give CLU a two-point advantage. That proved to be enough room as the Kingsmen stayed alive and a Forghani kill finished off the set.
After hitting just .024 in the second set, CLU hit at a .278 clip in the third with 15 kills and just five errors in the game.
In the fourth, the Kingsmen used another big rally to keep their hopes alive. Trailing 14-10, CLU went on a 10-2 run behind a total team effort with kills from Oertli, Horn, Gallardo, Robert Rutecki, and Forghani to take a 20-16 lead. Horn capped off the 15-5 run to send the match to a fifth set.
The fifth and final game was the most exciting yet with long rallies as each team fought hard for every point. CLU fell behind 14-12, but once again battled back to even the match at 15-15. A costly service error from the Kingsmen and a huge block from the Bobcats capped off the match in heartbreaking fashion for the Violet and Gold.
Horn led the way with a game-high 21 kills on an efficient .326 hitting percentage and notched a double-double with 11 digs. Gallardo finished with 15 kills while Arutian tallied 50 assists and Jamal Balkhi led the way with 14 digs. CLU was lights out at the net with 28 total blocks in the match with six coming from Horn.
Samuel Hala'ufia and Matthew Lostetter led the Bobcats with 15 and 13 kills, respectively.
Cal Lutheran (1-11) will continue its home stand with the CLU/UCSC Invitational next weekend, beginning on Friday, Feb. 19 at 3:00 p.m. against San Diego City College.