Cal Poly Women’s Volleyball is looking to take control of the Big West Conference as they host Hawai’i Saturday, Oct. 6th at 7 p.m in Mott Athletics Center (building 42). The Mustangs are riding a 14-game win streak, pushing their rank to No. 13 in the nation, the highest ranking for the program since 2008.
As the only two undefeated teams in conference play, Cal Poly (15-1, 5-0 Big West) and Hawai’i (8-5, 4-0 BWC) will battle for the top spot of the Big West Conference. Since 2016, the Mustangs have won 22 Big West games in a row. The team earned a major victory in September, beating the then-No. 9 UCLA, the first time the team defeated a top-10 school since 2007 and the first win against UCLA since 1985.
Recent matches between Cal Poly and Hawai’i have been close, five-set thrillers. At their first meeting last season, the Mustangs staged a 3-2 come from behind victory on the Rainbow Wahine’s home turf.
In another heated five sets in front of a sell-out crowd at Mott Athletics Center later in the season, the Mustangs were off to a rough start. The Rainbow Wahine took the first set, but the teams went back and forth with set wins. Cal Poly, however, was able to dominate the last two. The teams were neck and neck in the final set, but a kill by Adlee Van Winden and an error by Hawai’i brought the packed audience to their feet.
“To see a line forming outside of Mott two hours early was something that I knew was going to be historic,” senior outside hitter Van Winden said. “It’s just a sense of security, like your hard work is being recognized by those in the community and they want to be a part of something. I think that’s truly what a lot people play sports for.”
Last year’s match was the first time in program history that Cal Poly took a victory against Hawai’i at home. The Mustangs ended up sweeping the Big West Conference with a 16-0 record.
On Saturday, the experienced senior libero Katherine Brouker and Van Winden could be the difference-makers in another close match. In last year’s home game against Hawai’i, Brouker carried the team with a career-high 28 digs. Van Winden had 17 kills and a career high of 18 digs.
Hungry for revenge, the Mustangs will need to watch Hawai’i’s outside hitter Mckenna Granato, who put down 14 kills in last year’s match, but with 13 errors in 56 attacks, hit .018. Granato had a match-high three service aces. Rainbow Wahine Setter Norene Iosia achieved her 13th double-double of the year and had 18 digs.
In a recent interview with Brouker previewing the game, she said practices have been business as usual. The Mustangs’ mantra of “execution over emotion” should be on full display, with some adjustments.
“We’ve definitely changed what our defense is like blocking-wise because Hawai’i sets their balls a lot higher than we do,” Brouker, the 5th in the Big West in digs, said. “Both teams are going to have to bring out strong defense. Determination to win is going to be a huge factor.”