MERCED, Calif. - After battling to a fifth set and dropping a heartbreaker at home against UC Merced earlier this season, the Cal Lutheran men's volleyball team earned sweet redemption on the road with a 3-1 (30-28, 20-25, 25-22, 25-16) victory against the Bobcats on Saturday night.
The first set proved to be the most crucial as the Kingsmen edged out a 30-28 thriller to take a 1-0 lead. Trailing 28-27 with the game on the line, Robert Rutecki came through in the clutch with his second consecutive kill to even the match at 28 apiece. The Kingsmen then capitalized on a pair of back-to-back errors from UCM to capture the set. CLU hit .415 in the game with 20 kills on 41 attempts and just three errors.
After the Bobcats bounced back to take game two, 25-20, the Violet and Gold earned a critical set three win, 25-22, to take a 2-1 lead in the match. Hunter Horn and Kristian Gallardo were key down the stretch to help CLU pull away for the win.
With the advantage, the Kingsmen rolled through UC Merced in the fourth set, 25-16, to earn the victory.
Offensive Highlights: Gallardo led the team with 14 kills while Horn and Rutecki notched double-figures with 12 apiece. Nicholas Oertli and Nolan Forghani each tallied eight kills in the match and Keaton Arutian dished out 44 assists to facilitate the offense.
Defensive Highlights: Libero Jamal Balkhi was everywhere on the defensive end racking up nine digs to lead the Kingsmen while Arutian added seven. At the net, Jordan Castro, Forghani and Oertli led the way with two total blocks apiece.
Opponent: The Bobcats were led by Cole Smith who finished with a game-high 20 kills and Matt Pelfini who added 49 assists and 11 digs.
Notables: Justin Kam made his CLU debut for the Kingsmen and Forghani's eight kills are a career-high for the senior.
Cal Lutheran (4-15) will return to Gilbert Arena for a match against No. 6 Nazareth this Wednesday, Mar. 9 at 6:00 p.m.