Last season’s performance by the UC Santa Cruz men’s volleyball team would be considered a success by most metrics. The Banana Slugs compiled a 14–5 overall record (including an undefeated mark through the month of February), ending their campaign with three straight victories. They finished with the No. 9 ranking in the NCAA Division III AVCA Coaches Poll.But, despite their accomplishments and top–10 ranking, the Slugs fell short of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. No need, of course, to explicitly state the team’s remaining objective.
“That’s definitely the goal,” said senior outside hitter Ryan Manley (Monte Vista High/Cupertino), who was a freshman when the Slugs last reached the postseason tournament in 2015. That year, UC Santa Cruz went 23–5.
Aided in May by the passage of Measure 68, the referendum that will go to support athletics, the Slugs this season are scheduled to play more than 30 matches—a noticeable uptick from the 19 last season. Among the challengers will be 23 D-III opponents (also an increase, from just 14 last year)—matches that will go a long way determining if the Slugs’ name will be called by the NCAA in April.
The Slugs (6–0) take to the road this week to face UC San Diego in La Jolla on Friday and UC Merced Sunday.
“It’s going to be a push and we’re going to have to perform in some high-pressure matches,” Manley said. “But I think this group is able to do it, especially with the guys coming in.
“We’re deep enough to take on the schedule in front of us.”
That schedule has the Slugs on the road beginning in late January and lasting through March, with only the team’s alumni exhibition on Feb. 24 slated at home. The Slugs will play as far north as Milwaukee and as far east as Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Third-year head coach Paul …