MILWAUKEE – Marian University men’s volleyball (1-3, 0-0 NACC) took the opening set against nationally-ranked UC-Santa Cruz but the Banana Slug took the next three sets for the non-conference win.
The Sabres jumped out early on the Banana Slugs using a 13-6 run to take a 19-12 lead in the opening set. UC-Santa Cruz battled back to tie the match at 22-22 but never had a set point opportunity. Marian would be unable to convert the first three set point opportunities before a kill from senior Aaron Wendels and an attack error from UCSC gave Marian a 29-27 first set win.
The rest of the match, however, saw the Banana Slug offense take over and win the next three sets. Marian hung around in the second set trailing only 21-19 before UCSC closed out the set with a 4-1 run.
The third set saw a 14-14 draw before the Banana Slugs went on a 7-2 run drawing a Marian timeout. The Sabres came out of the timeout with a 5-2 streak but the rally was too late as MU fell 25-21. UCSC had a fast start in the fourth set jumping out to an 11-5 lead, which they were able to hold on to the remainder of the set.
Junior Jon Smallpage hit .386 with a match-high 21 kills to lead the Sabres, while also recording seven digs and two solo blocks. Wendels also finished with double-digit kills with 11, while junior Cullen Liberski had a match-high 16 digs.
Junior Joey Dittman had 41 assists to go with six digs and two block assists.
Marian returns to action Friday, Feb. 2 taking on Penn State-Altoona at 5:30 p.m. and Wittenberg at 7:30 p.m. in non-conference play.