THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - On the second and final day of the CLU/UCSC Invitational, the Cal Lutheran men's volleyball team split a pair of games to finish 2-2 over the weekend. In the first match of the afternoon, the Kingsmen swept past Benedictine-Mesa 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 25-20) before forcing No. 13 Elmira to five sets but fell just short, 3-2 (25-21, 27-29, 25-18, 21-25, 15-11).
CLU def. BENU 3-0
The Kingsmen earned their second sweep in as many days after cruising past the Redhawks to begin the afternoon. Both teams traded points until back-to-back kills from Hunter Horn and Kristian Gallardo helped CLU pull ahead to take a 10-5 lead. Nicholas Oertli got into the action with a pair of kills moments later, putting CLU up 15-7. Oertli and Horn were dominant throughout the stretch and the Kingsmen put away the first game, 25-19.
In the opening set, CLU finished with a team hitting percentage of .467, connecting for 17 kills on 30 attempts and only three errors. In the second set, the Kingsmen improved on their exceptional hitting with a .478 percentage, slamming home 14 kills on 23 attempts and just three errors once again. CLU rode its hot hitting to a big 25-14 second set victory and captured the sweep with a 25-20 third set.
Many Kingsmen contributed to the victory in an all-around team effort. Horn and Oertli paced the squad with game-high nine-kills apiece while the pairing of Gallardo and Michael Campbell each tallied eight. Campbell was also a menace at the net, rejecting numerous attacks and finishing with five total blocks. Keaton Arutian totaled 34 assists and Jordan Castro led the team with nine digs. Ben Quantock also got into the action to make his CLU debut.
Benedictine-Mesa was led by Nic Gibson who notched a team-high eight kills while Jesus Izaguirre finished with eight digs.
EC def. CLU 3-2
In a matchup between teams wearing identical colors, No. 13 Elmira and Cal Lutheran battled right down to the end. After a tight first set went the Soaring Eagles way 25-21 after a late run, the Kingsmen looked to avoid a 2-0 deficit in the second.
Much like the first set, neither team led by more than two points for the majority of the match. Trading point for point, Elmira was finally able to break free down the stretch once again and grabbed a 21-17 lead. CLU, however, would not let the game slip away and rallied for five straight points to take a 22-21 lead. Castro was phenomenal during the stretch with three powerful kills to inspire the Kingsmen. The teams went back-and-forth into extras until CLU took a 28-27 on a Gallardo kill. Horn went to the service line and delivered an ace to knot the game up at 1-1.
Sticking with the theme of the match, the Soaring Eagles and the Kingsmen exchanged point for point, until a Castro kill put CLU within one, 19-18. That would be the last point of the set for the Kingsmen as Elmira strung together six straight to close out the game, 25-18, and take a 2-1 lead.
CLU opened the fourth set with a 5-0 run sparked by a Mike Esper kill and an ace from Arutian. Elmira would battle back, but the Kingsmen were not losing the set and captured it 25-21 on a kill from Horn.
Looking for their first victory in their fifth five-set match of the season, the Kingsmen took a 9-6 lead midway through the match. Elmira, however, put it together when they needed to for a 9-2 run to close out the set and take the match.
Horn and Castro led the way with 12 and 11 kills, respectively, while Horn and Jamal Balkhi each tallied 10 digs. Oertli finished with seven total blocks and Arutian totaled 39 assists.
Erik Griffin was everywhere for the Soaring Eagles and notched a game-high 32 kills while adding nine digs.
Cal Lutheran (2-14) will leave the confines of Gilbert Arena for a road match against Hope International this Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 7:00 p.m.
Tournament Website: CLU/UCSC Invitational
Box Score: CLU 3, BENU 0
Box Score: EC 3, CLU 2
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