Credit: Eyasu Betwos | Mustang News

No. 12 seed Cal Poly beach volleyball narrowly lost by a score of 3-2 to No. 5 seed Florida State in round one of the NCAA Beach Volleyball National Championship in Gulf Shores, Ala on Wednesday, May 4.

Cal Poly came into the tournament as the No. 12 seed after winning their third consecutive Big West championship at home on Saturday, Apr. 30. Florida State also earned an automatic bid after winning its own conference championship, as the Seminoles have made appearances in the national championship tournament every year since 2012.

In set one of the 1:00 p.m. tipoff, the Seminoles took wins on every court except number one, where freshman Ella Connor and redshirt senior Tia Miric edged out a 21-19 victory for the Mustangs.

On court four, redshirt senior Mariah Whalen and sophomore Piper Naess fell in two sets 21-14, 21-12 to give the Seminoles their first point. 

Down 1-0, on court two, freshman Piper Ferch and redshirt junior Jayelin Lombard also lost 21-17, 21-15 to put the Mustangs down 2-0. This is Lombard’s third time at the national championship event; last year she was ranked the No. 21 pair in the nation with now assistant coach Amy Ozee.

The No. 1 duo of Connor and Miric started set two tied 7-7 after their 21-19 win in set one. The two duos went back and forth until the score was 14-13. After that, the All-American duo of Connor and Miric took control, winning 21-16 and securing the point.

With the score now at 2-1, the Mustangs needed two wins from the two remaining duos. On the other side, Florida State needed just one win to advance. 

On court five, redshirt junior Vanessa Roscoe and redshirt sophomore Josie Ulrich stepped up after losing to No. 13 Hawaii last weekend in the final two matches of the Big West championship. Today, after dropping set one 21-13, they bounced back in tremendous fashion.

They started set two up 5-2 and rode that throughout. They then were up 10-4, 12-6, 13-8 and finally 21-15 in the set-two victory to force a third set.

The No. 3 pairing of freshman Peyton Dueck and graduate Addison Hermstad needed a win in set two as well after falling in set one. The score of set two was tied at both 7-7 and 9-9 until Dueck and Hermstad pulled away at 15-12, ending the set up 21-16 to force set three.

With the score still at 2-1 in favor of the Seminoles, both courts went to decisive third sets.

Roscoe and Ulrich, on court five, were up 9-7 after a Roscoe kill and a long ball from the Seminoles. After the set was tied at 9-9, Cal Poly retook the lead at 11-9 after a serve into the net and an attack by Ulrich that split the Seminole defenders. 

The Seminoles then scored to make it a one-point game. On the next rally, Roscoe switched the call on her set and the pair scored to make it 12-10. The Mustang painting scored two more and on the match point, Roscoe was up to serve. After a back-and-forth rally that included an Ulrich block, Roscoe tallied a kill to secure the 15-11 win.

The victory at the No. 5 court made the score 2-2 and all eyes moved to court three to see a potential No. 12 seed upset a No. 5 seed.

By the time the game on court five ended, the score on court three had reached 10-8 in favor of the Mustangs.

After the teams traded points until Cal Poly was up 12-10, the Seminoles tied it up 12-12 on a block from Dueck’s attack. 

During the next point, Dueck netted, giving the Seminoles their first lead of the set at 13-12. Another block extended the Florida State lead to 14-12, and the Seminoles were one point away from moving on. The Mustangs weren’t going away quietly, as a Hermstad block led to another Cal Poly point, cutting the Seminole lead to 14-13. 

In the dual point, Dueck was up to serve. As Florida State was setting the ball, Hermstad was at the net. She pulled away again and Florida State’s Kate Privett poked the ball to her left. The ball fell tight to the net and Dueck dove to get under it, but could not bump the ball up enough for Hermstad, giving the victory to the Seminoles. 

Florida State took the match 3-2 as they narrowly avoided the upset bid for Cal Poly.

Among others, Addison Hermstad and the heavily-accoladed Tia Miric will be graduating this year. Big West Freshman of the Year Ella Connor will be partnerless at the No. 1 spot, while Dueck will also be without a partner at the No. 3 spot.

Despite the loss, the Mustangs turned in another historic season in 2022. After being seeded as the third-best team in the Big West, Cal Poly fought out of the conference tournament to win their third straight Big West title.