Carthage advances to championship
Red Men hold off UC Santa Cruz in four sets
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- In the second semifinal of Saturday, Carthage broke out to a 2-0 advantage before winning by a 3-1 set advantage. Set scores were 25-23, 25-20, 20-25, 25-18.
With the win, Carthage upped its record to 29-5, while UC-Santa Cruz ended its season with a 17-7 record.
It was the fourth time these two teams have met. with the final tally each team wining twice. On Mar. 3, Santa Cruz won 3-1. On Mar. 31, Carthage was victorious, 3-1. On Apr. 14, Santa Cruz won by a 3-0 margin.
Santa Cruz was seeded second in this championship, while Carthage is seeded third.
Carthage hit .326 as a team in this four-set win, while the Banana Slugs hit .250.
Senior outside hitter Randy Hansen led the Redmen with 17 kills. He also had six digs and two blocks, and hit .308. Sophomore Pat Barry followed with 12 kills and had five digs. Three others just missed in double-digit kills. They were senior middle blocker Matt Yanz with nine, senior middle blocker Tyler Frings with eight, and sophomore outside hitter Jim Schultz with eight. Sophomore setter Connor Wexter ended with 47 set assists.
As for UC Santa Cruz, junior outside hitter Salvatore La Cavera topped his squad with a match-high 21 kills. He also had four digs. The only other Banana Slug in double-digit kills was senior outside hitter Jake Deitrich with 16. He also had three blocks, and hit a team-high .452. Senior setter Paul Leon finished the night with 51 set assists.
In the first set, the Red Men raced out of the gate to a 3-0 lead. Santa Cruz settled down after that and went on a run of its own to tie the game at 6-6 behind a three man block of Dietrich, Leon, and senior middle blocker Thomas Davidson. The game continued back and forth from that point forward. Neither team could extend a lead past two points. Wexter set up Schultz for a kill to give Carthage a 15-13 advantage at the media timeout, but Santa Cruz came out after the break and got consecutive kills from Dietrich to pull even at 15. The two continued to trade points to a score of 22-all late in the first. Wexter set up Barry for a spike and then a Dietrich attack error brought Carthage one point from the first set at 24-22. After a quick Banana Slug timeout, Barry put the game away to give the Red Men a 25-23 first set victory.
The second set started off similar to the first, with neither squad taking control. Carthage held a slim 9-8 lead before three consecutive points put the Red Men up 12-8 and forced a Santa Cruz timeout. Hansen kept things going for Carthage out of the break, striking a Wexter set for a five-point advantage. Another Barry kill helped the Red Men push the lead all the way to eight at 22-14 before Santa Cruz made one last charge in the set. Back to back Dietrich strikes moved the scoreboard to 22-18 and it was Carthage’s turn to call a timeout. The Banana Slugs got to within three, but ultimately fell 25-20 in game two.
In the do-or-die third set, UC Santa Cruz came out with a fury. The Slugs shot out to a 9-2 advantage behind three kills from La Cavera. Carthage had to play catch-up the entire set, and never got within three. After a strong set overall, La Cavera capped off the Cruz victory with a kill from Leon, pulling the second-seeded Slugs within a game at 2-1.
Santa Cruz started the fourth set right where it left off in the third. Tied 5-5 early on, Dietrich and La Cavera contributed kills to go up 10-6 after a 5-1 spurt. Carthage elected not to call time, fighting through the Santa Cruz run and getting some help from the Slugs with a couple of attack errors. Yanz’s service ace capped a 5-0 run for the Red Men to make it 12-11 Carthage and prompt a Santa Cruz timeout. It was all Carthage from that point forward. AVCA Player of the Year Hansen got going again, and finished off the match with back-to-back kills to propel Carthage into the championship with a 25-18 fourth set win.