No. 10 MIT Defeats No. 6 UC Santa Cruz in Five-Set Thriller

Junior Andrew Busse
Junior Andrew Busse

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – In the first meeting between both programs, the No. 10 MIT men's volleyball team defeated No. 6 UC Santa Cruz, 20-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, 15-13, on Thursday night. With the win, the Engineers improved to 10-2 on the year while the Banana Slugs saw their ledger lower to 7-6.

UC Santa Cruz built a 12-9 lead in the opening set and maintained its small cushion despite MIT narrowing the gap to one on four occasions, the last time at 20-19 on a kill by freshman Martin Krasuski (Aurora, Ill.). Errors by both sides moved the score to 23-20 as the Banana Slugs secured the set on junior Branden Torado's (Sacramento, Calif.) kill followed by an ace from freshman Mark Lund (Los Altos, Calif.).

In the second stanza, the Engineers created a 12-7 advantage but UC Santa Cruz battled back with a 7-3 run asa strike from senior Harland Frost (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) brought it within one (15-14). MIT generated five of the next six points as a block by juniors Alex Klein (San Diego, Calif.) and Bradley Gross (Centreville, Va.) reestablished the five-point cushion. The visitors put together the same spurt, capitalizing on a kill from sophomore Jorges Reyes (Chula Vista, Calif.) to tie the set at 21. A service error put the Engineers in front while a solo block from Krasuski was followed by an assisted block that featured Klein and junior Andrew Busse (Mount Prospect, Ill.) that gave the hosts set point. After a timeout by the Banana Slugs, Torado's kill extended the frame but Klein responded with a strike of his own.

Errors by the Cardinal and Gray helped the visitors establish a 7-3 lead in the third set. MIT slowly chipped away at the deficit as its 8-3 spurt gave it an 11-10 edge. A kill from senior Jake Landel (Long Beach, Calif.) resulted in an exchange of points and seven ties that pushed the score to 20-20. UC Santa Cruz reclaimed the lead on a Torado blast and then gained some breathing room with a Reyes kill. Following a timeout by the Engineers, a service error and Busse block quickly evened the frame at 22. The Banana Slugs went on to reach set point courtesy of a Reyes kill and a block from Torado and junior Blake Chadwick (San Diego, Calif.). Krasuski's kill cut MIT's deficit in half but Reyes capped the set with another kill.

The fourth frame was closely played as the early stages featured seven ties before UC Santa Cruz registered a 4-1 spurt to go ahead, 14-12, on a Chadwick kill. The Engineers responded by scoring six of the next seven points to claim a lead it would not relinquish. The Banana Slugs continued to attack, trimming its deficit to one on five occasions, the last coming on a kill from Landel that held off set point (24-23). MIT then forced the decisive fifth set on a strike by Krasuski.

UC Santa Cruz jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the final frame and fought off a 5-1 spurt by the Engineers to take an 8-6 advantage at the changeover. MIT picked up three of the next four points as Gross was a factor in each score by posting two kills and collaborating with Krasuski on a block. An exchange of points ensued until Torado registered a kill and a block with Chadwick to give the Banana Slugs a 12-10 cushion. The Engineers then generated three straight points, capitalizing on a Krasuski kill, Busse block, and a hitting error to force a timeout. Coming out of the break, the Chadwick-Torado tandem produced another block to even the score at 13. MIT replied with back-to-back Busse kills to clinch the match.

Senior Kenny Siebert (St. Louis, Mo.) produced 15 kills, a .400 hitting percentage, eight digs, and two blocks for the Engineers. Krasuski finished with 15 kills and three blocks while Busse totaled nine blocks and seven kills. Klein posted eight kills and five blocks as Gross registered six kills and five blocks. Senior Paul Syta (Fairport, N.Y.) tallied 37 assists, 11 digs, four kills, and two blocks while classmate Evan Wang (Saratoga, Calif.) dished out 11 assists. Sophomore Brendan Chang (Laytonsville, Md.) collected 10 digs as freshman Suyash Fulay (Wexford, Pa.) tacked on seven digs.

Torado ended the night with a match-high 17 kills to go along with five blocks for the Banana Slugs. Landel recorded 13 kills and eight digs as Frost notched nine kills, nine digs, and three blocks. Reyes contributed nine kills, eight digs, and three blocks while freshman Thomas Hassenbein (Moopark, Calif.) generated seven kills and five blocks. Chadwick amassed 47 assists, 12 digs, five kills, and four blocks as junior Jake Hurwitz (Marina Del Ray, Calif.) led the way with 14 digs.

MIT returns to United Volleyball Conference action on Saturday, Feb. 22 when it hosts Vassar College. UC Santa Cruz, meanwhile, extends its trip to Massachusetts as a participant in this weekend's Volleyball Hall of Fame Morgan Classic hosted by No. 4 Springfield College.