UC Santa Cruz Downs Willamette after Close Wins in 2nd Set and 3rd Set

Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS)
Natalie Klotz (Fr., OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- University of California, Santa Cruz won two tight sets to complete a 3-0 sweep of Willamette University in the Cal Lu Fornia Invitational on Friday, Sept. 7 on the campus of California Lutheran University. The Banana Slugs won the first set 25-18, then held off the Bearcats for wins of 25-22 and 25-23 in the second set and the third set, respectively. UCSC upped its record to 2-5, while Willamette fell to 3-3.

Claire Okerlund recorded a match-high 16 kills for the Banana Slugs to go along with a .361 hitting percentage and 12 digs. Shania Andrews of UCSC topped all players with 16 digs, while Cassie NIckel supplied 14 digs. The Banana Slugs earned 37 kills and finished the match with 4.0 team total blocks on one solo block and six assists. UCSC hit .147 as a team.

Freshman Natalie Klotz (OH/OPP, Bonner Springs, KS/Bonner Springs HS) provided the Bearcats with 13 kills, as she reached double digits for the first time at Willamette. Klotz hit .220, delivered a match-high three service aces and contributed eight digs. Jaiden Mason (So., S/OPP, Charlotte, NC/Charlotte Christian School) achieved 29 assists (9.67 per set) and led WU with 15 digs. Elena Vasquez (So., LIB/DS, Kingston, WANorth Kitsap HS) added 14 digs. 

Dreux Bertolucci (Sr., OH, Cottonwood, CA/West Valley HS/Shasta College) was credited with seven kills for the Bearcats. Lauren Stiles (Jr., OH, Altadena, CA/Flintridge Preparatory School) ended he match with six kills and 11 digs. Willamette amassed 33 kills, but UCSC limited the Bearcats to a .079 team hitting percentage.

The Bearcats led 6-4 in the first set following a kill by Stiles. The Banana Slugs countered with a 6-0 run, including two kills from Jordan Kirchner, to take a 10-6 edge. A bit later, WU trailed 13-10 before UCSC scored on three consecutive rallies for a 16-10 lead. Willamette pulled as close as 20-16 after an attacking error by the Banana Slugs.

Later, UC Santa Cruz held a 23-18 lead after a kill by Klotz. One kill each from Okerlund and Maddie Fowler ended the set.

In the second set, the Banana Slugs owned a 7-4 margin after a combo block from Fowler and Alexandria Everett. UC Santa Cruz eventually held a 16-10 lead following a kill by Isabella Hoglun, but still had to hang on for the win.

The Bearcats cut the deficit to 18-17 on a kill by Klotz, before trailling 22-18. WU strung together three consecutive points to pull within 22-21 on a service ace by Jennifer Lane (Jr., MH/OH, Salinas, CA/Notre Dame HS). Two rallies later, WU was within 23-22 after a kill by Bertolucci. UC Santa Cruz won the next two points on a kill by Hoglund and a kill from Okerlund.

An 8-3 run by the Banana Slugs started the third set. Willamette scored four of the next five points to reduce the lead to 9-7. UCSC extended the edge to 18-11 with a 9-4 run.

Again, the Bearcats rallied, using a 12-5 surge. WU cut the lead to a single point at 23-22 following a service error by Nickel and tied the score on the next rally when Hoglund made an attacking error. Klotz committed an attacking error that put UCSC in front, 24-23. A bad set by Willamette provided the Banana Slugs with the final point of the match.

Willamette will play two more matches at the Cal Lu Fornia Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 8. The Bearcats will take on University of Redlands (Calif.) at 1 p.m. (PDT) and will meet Hardin-Simmons University (Texas) at 5 p.m.