By Christina Lee
City on a Hill Press Reporter
The crowd was silent as it anticipated the winning point. Fans stood on the bleachers with breathless anticipation, waiting to hear the ball hit the ground. Then the sound of a whistle sliced through the air, and the gym erupted with noise, ending the night with exuberance.
Last weekend, the UC Santa Cruz men’s volleyball team went 3-0, defeating Grand Canyon University 3-0 on both Friday and Saturday, and taking down Holy Names 3-1 in an exciting match Saturday night.
“We knew we were the better team out there, but we didn’t want to give them any slack,” senior and libero Jeff Hogg said. “We played our starters, and after that we put in a couple of our new players and they really stepped up.”
Senior Matt Smiley, an outside hitter, said he was satisfied with the team’s cohesiveness and is confident in its ability to defeat Holy Names.
“We’ve played [the Hawks] many times before,” Smiley said. “We weren’t that nervous … We just knew we had to pass well.”
Outside hitter senior Chris Konish scored nine kills throughout the match. Junior Eric Rowell, a setter, scored eight kills and 42 assists.
The Slugs dominated the first half of the match, winning the first set with a score of 30-17 and the second set 30-14. After losing the third set 27-30, the Slugs rallied back and took the fourth 30-25, ending the match and putting another win on their record.
“Even after we drop a game, we’re still able to come through and have guys compete and play pretty well,” said five-year coach and alumnus Jonah Carson. “I think that is a testament to how hard every guy on the team works.”
The Slugs have a rich winning history, finishing third in the Final Four of the Molten Division III Invitational Championship last year, and winning it the two previous years.
This season, the Slugs maintain high hopes for the championships and consider this year’s team able to match, if not surpass, last year’s end-of-season standings.
“The season looks fairly optimistic,” Smiley said, “but we have a long road and a lot of hard matches, so we’ll see.”
Hogg is optimistic.
“Obviously we want to go back to the Final Four and New Jersey,” he said. “If we keep playing like we were tonight, I think we’ll be able to do that.”
Though the Slugs have yet to play a team in their own DIII, they hold a record of 3-1 overall. Coaches and players say they have a lot of work to do, but it is possible to get to the Molten Final Four.
“We want to be the best team in the country, and obviously that means winning a national championship,” Carson said. “We have to make it to the Final Four in order for that to happen, and that’s where we’re going.”