In their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2007, the Cal Poly Mustangs swept the University of Denver Pioneers in three straight sets at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) inside the Pauley Pavilion Friday night.
After taking the opening point of the first set, the Mustangs refused to surrender the lead through the entirety of the set. Though Denver kept the score close early, the Mustangs pulled away to win the first set 25-20.
“Overall, I thought from our side of the net a very clean match,” Cal Poly head coach Sam Crosson said. “Our attackers did well, and were aggressive and committed in areas when sets were there for them.”
Sophomore outside hitter Torrey Van Winden started off strong for the Mustangs in her first return trip to UCLA since transferring from the school to Cal Poly before this school year. In the first set, she led the Mustangs with six points while junior outside hitter Adlee Van Winden and junior libero Katherine Brouker added six digs.
The Mustangs continued their dominant play in the second set to take a commanding 2-0 lead. Senior outside hitter Raeann Greisen, senior middle blocker Savannah Niemen and Torrey controlled the net the entire set for the Mustangs, posting eight, four and 15 kills respectively by the end of the set.
Their solid play up front propelled Cal Poly to a 25-18 win in the second set, only trailing by one point early in the set. Senior setter Taylor Nelson led all players with 27 assists while Torrey totaled 16 points in the match at the end of the set.
“It was nice to see a collective team effort out there,” Crosson said. “I thought the rhythm and the energy and the vibe was very good throughout the match.”
“It was amazing. I think for the last four years, every year we have been saying ‘This is our year,’ and this year I came in thinking the same thing,” senior middle blocker Savannah Niemen said. “You don’t find teams as cohesive in the gym as we’ve been and I think that really enforced all of our dreams, what we’ve been wanting all this time.”
Torrey Van Winden led the Mustangs with 20 kills and 21 points, hitting .500 in the match. Greisen added 11.5 points while hitting .643 and Niemen tallied 12.5 points on a .429 hitting percentage. Nelson finished the match with 41 assists, while Adlee Van Winden and Brouker both posted 12 digs for the Mustangs.
“I had a lot of great times here, a little bit nostalgic,” Torrey Van Winden said. “But I’m just so happy that I’m finally in the right jersey when I’m back here … I can’t wait to battle it out.”
Next, the Mustangs will face UCLA Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. inside the Pauley Pavilion, priming a potential matchup between Torrey Van Winden and her former team, UCLA.