Cal Poly Volleyball swept UC Riverside in dominant fashion on Friday, Nov. 17. The Mustangs have now won eight of their last nine matches, staying hot coming into their final game and the postseason.
The Mustangs sport a 19-10 overall record and are 13-4 in Big West play with the final outing of the season coming against UC Davis on Saturday, Nov. 18.
Starting over an injured Lizzy Markovska was freshman outside hitter Emma Fredrick, who led the team in kills with 11. This is the first time Fredrick has led the team in kills in a game. The true freshman also had a .333 hit percentage.
Given that Markovska is still limited from the ankle injury she suffered against Long Beach State last week, Fredrick helped fill the gap in the outside hitter position.
“She did everything that we could have expected of her and more,” Head Coach Caroline Walters said. “It’s never bad to have someone playing that well this late in the season, so we know that she’s kind of another tool in our toolbox heading into the tournament too.”
Although there are no seniors on the team in terms of eligibility, the team celebrated redshirt junior libero Jolei Akima before the game with her own “senior night”, as this season may be the last of her collegiate career.
Akima has played a pivotal role in the Mustang defense this season, claiming 257 total digs this season which is second in the Big West.
Walters also reveres her as one of the best “teammates” she’s ever coached.
“She’s just incredibly selfless, loyal,” Walters said. “She brings a calmness to the group or levity on the court and off the court.”
Although she has one more year of eligibility, she plans on graduating in the spring and getting a job as of now.
“I love Cal Poly, [it] has changed my life and I’m so grateful for my teammates and coaches here,” Akima said. “I found my love for volleyball after moving here and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to play.”
Akima also tallied 15 digs and 3 aces as the defense put up one of their best performances of the year, holding the Highlanders to just a .021 hit percentage.
“We worked well together, the blockers at the net and the defenders in the back had good communication,” Akima said.
With their final run with Akima, Cal Poly looks to secure the third seed in the first-ever Big West Championship Tournament. The winner of the tournament has an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
With UCSB locked in as the first seed, the winner of Hawai’i and Long Beach State’s game on Saturday, Nov. 18 would claim the second seed. Both teams have the tiebreaker over Cal Poly.
For the Mustangs, this would mean they would have to beat UC Davis (8-8 Big West, 13-13 overall) to gain the third seed and avoid playing UCSB in the second round. If they lose, they would automatically be the fourth seed.
They face off Saturday, Nov. 18 at home at 8 p.m. for their final game of the regular season.
Although the Mustangs tend to struggle in the first set, this time they shut down the Highlanders 25-14.
Tied 8-8 in the second, Cal Poly went on a 10-1 run to make it 17-10. UC Riverside could not recover, and the Mustangs secured the set 25-17
The Mustangs continued to dominate in the third set, winning 25-14.