Cal Poly Volleyball completes their fourth reverse sweep on the season against UC Irvine on Friday Credit: Maura Shernisky

Cal Poly recorded their fourth reverse sweep this season and their second in a row in a 3-2 win over UC Irvine.

The Mustangs boosted their conference record to 2-1 and 8-7 overall. 

This match was also the team’s fourth consecutive game to reach five sets and their seventh nail-biter in total.

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Lizzy Markovska collected a double-double with 19 kills and 13 digs, and redshirt junior libero Jolei Akima collected 22 digs. 

Redshirt junior middle blocker Kate Slack got kills on over half of her hit attempts, totaling 11 kills.

Head Coach Caroline Walters sees the pattern of reverse sweeps as a “double-edged sword,” considering the uncertainty of its sustainability. 

“I think you have to be proud to a certain degree, but you don’t want to put yourself in that hole to begin with,” Walters said. 

Redshirt sophomore setter Emme Bullis collected a season-high 46 assists, showcasing that the offense can be flexible between two different types of rotations.

“Emme showed tonight that she’s gonna make the decisions that will allow us to run a 5-1,” Walters said. “If we need to bounce into a 6-2 we can do that to have more attackers and more presence blocking wise.”

Although the team didn’t record many blocks directly, the Mustang defense progressively improved at slowing balls down, allowing the offense to create more in-system opportunities. 

In the first set, UC Irvine led 18-15. After the Anteaters called a timeout, Irvine went on a 7-1 run to win the set 25-16. 

A revitalized defense kept the second set close, allowing Cal Poly to make quality hits that kept the set close. Down 17-13, the Mustangs went on a 5-1 run to tie it up 18-18. However, the Mustangs couldn’t finish the set, and the Anteaters took the set 25-22. 

Three service errors from Cal Poly this set also cost them key points.  

In the third set, Cal Poly started the set down 6-2 and went on a seven-point run to make it 9-6. 

Retaining their lead, redshirt freshman middle blocker Tess Massingale got a key kill after subbing in late in the set to help take the third 25-23.  

“Through the first couple of sets, we were not digging as many balls as you needed to, and they were able to get some kills off of tips and roll shots, which is the easy stuff,” Bullis said. “Eventually we [changed] that, we were able to pick those up and then our blocking just got so many more touches which really helped our defense create an offense.”

Cal Poly went on a five-point run to lead the fourth set 19-14, but Irvine rallied and cut the lead to 21-20. The Mustangs claimed the final four points consecutively to win the set 25-20.

Tallying four kills and claiming the final kill, Stockham and the Mustangs’ offense took over the last set, winning 15-8.

The Mustangs play Cal State Fullerton next Saturday at 2 p.m. The Mustangs are 9-1 in their last 10 matchups with the Titans.