In a tough Blue-Green Rivalry matchup at Mott Athletics Center on Friday night, the Mustangs defeated UC Santa Barbara in four sets (27-25, 29-27, 25-21, 25-23) to capture its 17th straight win and improve to 22-2 overall and 12-0 in conference play.
The Mustangs were led by sophomore outside hitter Torrey Van Winden’s 20 kills and 10 digs as well as junior outside hitter Adlee Van Winden’s 13 kills and nine digs. Freshman middle blocker Madilyn Mercer added a career-high six kills, while senior setter Taylor Nelson finished with 51 assists and a career-high 24 digs.
All four sets were a challenge for the Mustangs. In the first set, the Gauchos went on a 5-1 run to take a 16-11 lead. The Mustangs responded with a run of their own to tie the game at 21 apiece. When tied at 25, Torrey Van Winden’s kill coupled with UC Santa Barbara’s Kija Rivers’ attack error gave Cal Poly the first set.
UC Santa Barbara responded with an 8-1 lead before Mustangs’ head coach Sam Crosson called his second timeout in the set. Junior libero Katherine Brouker’s save off her fingertips brought the Mustangs back to a 12-8 deficit before the Mustangs tied with the Gauchos at 16 apiece. After trading points, UC Santa Barbara took the second set 29 to 27.
In the third set, the Mustangs and Gauchos continued to trade points. Cal Poly finished the set on a 6-2 run to win the set 25-21.
went 8-1 run to go up 23-16. A late rally by the Gauchos cut the lead to 24-23 before a kill from senior middle blocker Savannah Niemen ended the game.
Crosson felt the Mustangs could have executed at a higher rate.
“I thought that Santa Barbara served and passed a lot better than we did collectively,” Crosson said. “It kept them around. We did not settle into a good offensive rhythm tonight.”
Even though the Mustangs appeared to be the better team statistically coming into the match, Crosson cautioned his players to not overlook any of their opponents.
“I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes when everything on paper looks really good and then when you get out there in the match it’s a dogfight,” Crosson said.
Nelson was thrilled to win in her last Blue-Green Rivalry game.
“Last year we lost to them at home,” Nelson said. “We beat them when we played at Santa Barbara, but we knew they had nothing to lose this game. Just had to come out strong.”
The Mustangs seek to stay undefeated in conference play when they take on UC Davis next Friday at 7 p.m.