By Artoor Minas
A week after barely missing the playoffs, the UC Santa Cruz Men’s Volleyball Team dazzled fans as they swept the UC Davis Aggies 3-0 during their last home game of the season.
The Slugs had been eliminated from playoff contention, but Friday night’s atmosphere was a celebration of the great season and the final home game of graduating players Jesse Garber and Tyler Heinz.
“Bittersweet,” Garber said. “The game had the same intensity, but a different atmosphere after not making the playoffs. It was pretty emotional and hard to come to grips with this being the end.”
The team, who traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over Spring Break to face Division III competition, missed a chance for a bid into the Final Four after two crucial losses to rival Carthage College. Despite the disappointment, the team’s performance at home on Senior Night displayed their amazing growth and potential and, equally important, showed the team’s enduring fan base.
Energy emanated from the bleachers, which featured the cheering UCSC Men’s Swimming Team dressed in Speedos. The cheering that night underscored the strong support the team has been receiving all year.
“These are the greatest fans,” Heinz said. “The fans won games for us all year.”
Head Coach Jonah Carson echoed Heinz’s words.
“The fans are what make a home match a home match,” Carson said. “[They] are the reason why we, as a group, have been so successful and why UCSC athletic programs deserve more attention.”
Despite a late comeback attempt by the Aggies during the third game, the Slugs clearly held control of the best-of-five-contest after Davis swept them in their previous meeting.
“It was really hard to be here after missing the playoffs, considering that was our goal from the very beginning,” Tyler Heinz said of the sweep. “We just wanted to beat them in front of our home crowd and return the favor.”
The last home game was focused on the imminent departure of Heinz and Garber. During their years on the team, the two provided inspiring leadership and most would agree that their absence will be felt.
“It’s pretty emotional,” Heinz said with his parents together in the background. “I hope the team continues to play with heart and enjoys each moment they have here.”
Fittingly, Garber was responsible for the match’s final point. When questioned about whether the winning hit was set up for him, Garber smiled and replied, “Eric [Rowell] was trying to give us (Heinz and Garber) many chances to get points the whole night, but I don’t think it was on purpose.”
The seniors now leave behind a talented team that includes Second Team All-American Bryan Shires. But when the Slugs try to get back to the playoffs next year, the graduates won’t be far.
“I’ll be around, however, I’m done with indoor,” Heinz said. “Now I will be focusing on beach volleyball.”