Cal Poly fell 3-1 to the No.1 seed in the Big West, UCSB on Tuesday, Oct. 31, and have dropped the season series to the Gauchos.
The Mustangs are now 15-10 overall and 9-4 in conference and sit in fourth place with five games remaining in the season.
With Cal Poly in fourth place and UCSB in first, the Mustangs will need to figure out a way to compete against their Big West rival because the two could find themselves head-to-head this postseason.
Taking down the Gauchos starts with slowing down the opposite hitter for the Gauchos Tasia Farmer.
Although outside hitter for Santa Barbara Michelle is second in the Big West in kills per set (3.63), Farmer on the right side had 12 kills and five blocks in their most recent matchups and has had 30 kills against the Mustangs this season.
“Usually when teams are beating us, they’re sitting on their right sides a lot and the right sides are highly effective,” Walters said.
One way Cal Poly can hinder the Santa Barbara offense is to serve more aggressively, even if it means risking more service errors, according to Walters.
Serving aggressively creates tougher digs for the opposing passers, which could lead to more difficult sets that the Mustangs’ blockers can read and time.
Walters noted that Santa Barbara served really aggressively. The Gauchos had 14 aces, and the Mustangs had trouble digging their serves.
“I think our service error number can go up, and you’ll see maybe not more service aces, but you’re gonna be able to more easily defend what’s coming at you from Santa Barbara,” Walters said.
The Mustang offense had a wide distribution of hit attempts and kills this game, but lacked efficiency in most of their attackers this game.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Lizzy Markovska and redshirt junior outside hitter Tommi Stockham led the team with 10 kills each, but with hit percentages below .100. Redshirt junior outside hitter Amy Hiatt collected 9 kills with a hitting percentage of 31.6%
“It’s tough to find a rhythm when we can’t get into our consistency with our serves and passing,” Walters said. “And, it’s hard to stop them when they are insistent so much because we aren’t serving aggressive enough.”
The Mustangs had a better defensive showing against UCSB this time around, according to Walters with redshirt sophomore setter Emme Bullis digging the ball 23 times and Markovska added 12 digs.
The Mustangs played from behind for the first two sets but tied the set in both games at 21.
Ohwobete came in to serve for the Gauchos when the teams were tied 21-21 and dominated the Mustangs from behind the service line. Aces by Ohwobete and attack errors off the serve from the Mustangs allowed the Gauchos to swipe the first two sets.
“I thought Santa Barbara won the serve and pass battle and usually the team that does that at a much higher level is going to win matches,” Walters said.
As the referee began shaking goodbye to the scoreboard operators at 23-19 in the third set, the four-point lead seemed like a mile away, and the Gauchos looked ready to put the Mustangs away.
But a miraculous 7-1 run with the final blow by Markovska allowed the Mustangs to snag the set 26-24.
The fourth and final set was not as lively, however. Four of UCSB’s first ten points were blocks, and Cal Poly could not get the offense going as the Gauchos took the set 25-15 with ease.
The Mustangs play away against Hawai’i on Friday, Nov. 3, and have a four-game homestretch in the final weeks of the regular season.