Johnson & Wales began their Southern California matches with a 0-3 loss to the University of California at Santa Cruz on Friday afternoon at the Hope International campus. The Banana Slugs came out swinging in the opening set putting the Wildcats down 7-3 early. Johnson & Wales had some big kills down the stretch but the damage had already been done as Santa Cruz took the set 25-19.
The Wildcats struggled in the second set to find their defense as UCSC's Kyle Whillhite had three aces in his first five attempts. The Banana Slugs continued to control the set matching each of JWU's short scoring runs with 4 or 5 point runs of their own to take the 25-12 win.
The final set was Johnson & Wales' best from the start. The Wildcats held the early lead but the Banana Slugs were more efficient in their attacking resulting in multiple point runs as the set continued. JWU couldn't find the late rally needed to push the game into extra sets, falling 18-25.
Blake Walden and Alex Beehner each had 7 kills for Johnson & Wales with Damon Sichler contributing 25 set assists. Ryan Schroerlucke led all players with 18 digs for Johnson & Wales and Ty Coutts had 1.5 blocks. Mauro Salinas led UC Santa Cruz with 9 kills and .600 attacking.
Johnson & Wales will face off against Hope International at 7pm tonight in the Darling Pavilion.