THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Returning to Gilbert Arena for the first time since Feb. 20, the Cal Lutheran men's volleyball team nearly pulled off an upset against No. 7 Nazareth, forcing the Golden Flyers to five sets before falling 3-2 (25-19, 27-25, 26-28, 22-25, 15-11) on Wednesday night.
After Nazareth took the first two games by scores of 25-19 and 27-25, to take a 2-0 lead in the match, the Kingsmen mounted a huge comeback to force a fifth set.
After nearly pulling off a win in the second set, the Violet and Gold were clicking offensively and carried some confidence into the third. With the score tied 6-6 in the early going, the Kingsmen strung together three straight points highlighted by kills from Kristian Gallardo and Nicholas Oertli.
The Golden Flyers evened the score moments later, but CLU pulled ahead with a 7-3 spurt to take a 19-14 lead in the set. Oertli, Nolan Forghani and Jordan Castro each tallied a kill during the run, but Nazareth would score the next five points to tie the game.
Robert Rutecki slammed down a kill to give CLU a 24-22 edge, but the Golden Flyers rallied once again scoring four of the next six to even the score at 26-26. From there, a critical service error went in favor of the Kingsmen and Rutecki capped off the game with a kill on an assist by Nick Shoemate.
Rutecki, along with Forghani, continued their strong play to start the fourth set and helped the Kingsmen out to an early 8-3 lead with a pair of kills apiece. The Golden Flyers made a few runs, but CLU was able to lead from start to finish to even up the match at 2-2. The Kingsmen hit their best clip of the night in the fourth set, totaling a percentage of .316 with 16 kills and just four errors on 38 attempts.
In the fifth and final game, both teams traded points early on until Nazareth pulled away to take an 8-5 lead. The Kingsmen battled back with a 4-1 run, highlighted by kills from Rutecki ad Castro, and CLU tied the game at 9-9. Four straight points for the Golden Flyers, however, put the game out of reach and spelled victory for Nazareth.
With the loss, the Kingsmen are now 0-7 in five-set matches while Nazareth improved to 2-3.
CLU was led by Rutecki who notched 12 kills, while Hunter Horn and Forghani reached double figures with 10 apiece. Gallardo and Oertli were close behind with nine kills. Shoemate and Keaton Arutian tallied 30 assists and 18, respectively, while Forghani led the way at the net with three total blocks. Defensively, Jamal Balkhi racked up 16 digs.
Tim Zyburt produced a game-high 20 kills for the Golden Flyers and Jake Kemp recorded 61 assists.
Cal Lutheran (4-16) will travel north to compete in the UCSC Tournament this weekend where they will square off against Ramapo and UC Santa Cruz on Saturday, Mar. 12.