The Mustangs finish 2-1 at the Stephen F. Austin after dropping first match. Credit: Lily Tenner

After playing in the Sacramento State Invitational, Cal Poly volleyball made their way to the Stephen F. Austin Tournament in Texas this week.

The Mustangs (4-2) defeated Southern Mississippi and Nicholls State while falling to Stephen F. Austin.

Redshirt junior outside hitter Tommi Stockham and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Lizzy Markovska led the team in kills with 36 and 35 respectively in the tournament. 

The Mustangs continued to use two setters consistently throughout this tournament. Redshirt sophomore Emme Bullis totaled 61 assists, collecting 24 in each of their wins. Freshman Samantha Callahan had 50 total assists. 

Junior libero Jolei Akima stood out defensively, getting 20 or more digs in two out of the three games collecting 54 digs total. 

Offensive struggles in 3-0 loss to Stephen F. Austin

The Mustangs began the Stephen F. Austin tournament losing to the home team in three straight sets. 

The defense finished with a solid 11 blocks compared to Stephen F. Austin’s five. Junior outside hitter Amy Hiatt led the pack collecting a career-high seven blocks total with three of them solo. 

However, the offense struggled with just a .086 hitting percentage. The team leaders in kills Stockham and Markovska finished with under eight kills each.

The Mustangs’ offense struggled against Stephen F. Austin in the opening match.

Despite this, some bright spots were that Stockham recorded her career-high four aces and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Annabelle Thalken set her new best in nine kills. 

Despite the sweep, the first two sets were neck and neck, losing 26-24 in the first set and 28-26 in the second set. 

In the first set, the Mustangs were down 12-5 but rallied back to take the lead 16-15. After losing the lead and being down 24-22, they tied it back up with a kill by Markovska. The Ladyjacks scored two more points unanswered and the Mustangs fell 26-24 on a service ace. 

The second set proved to be similar to the first, as Cal Poly took another deficit, this time 9-3 but came back to take the lead at 11-10.

Once again, the Mustangs faced a set point of 24-22 and once again they tied it back up. They took the lead 25-24 on an attack error by Stephen F. Austin but couldn’t finish the job and lost 28-26.

The Ladyjacks took another early lead 9-3, but the Mustangs couldn’t climb out this time and lost the set 25-18. 

Cal Poly outlasts Southern Mississippi in five sets

The offense told a different story in the second match of the tournament.

The Mustangs recorded a .186 hitting percentage against Southern Mississippi. Stockham led the team in this match with 18 kills and Markovska with 17. 

The team also served incredibly well, scoring the highest number of aces since 2001 with 15 as a team. Bullis was responsible for six of them, her career highest. 

The defense finished with 11 blocks, and Akima collected a game-high 21 digs throughout.

The first set went back and forth until the Mustang went on an 8-0 run to take an 18-11 lead. The Mustangs kept a steady lead to win the set 25-19. 

In the second, Cal Poly started the set up 5-2, but Southern Mississippi rallied for six consecutive points to an 8-5 lead.

After being down 23-21 later in the set, the Mustangs tied it back up at 23 but couldn’t finish successfully as the Golden Eagles scored back-to-back to win 25-23. 

The teams were even at 16 points in the third set but Southern Mississipi took over and ended the set 25-21 with a kill. 

Cal Poly led the fourth set 17-16 and extended the lead to four 21-17 with kills by Stockham, Hiatt, and Markovska. Southern Miss cut the lead to one point at 24-23, but Hiatt’s kill on the next point sealed the set. 

The fifth set was tied at 11 when Cal Poly scored four points in a row to win the game in the clutch. 

Cal Poly sweeps Nicholls State to wrap up tournament 

The Mustangs beat the Colonels in dominant fashion on Sept. 2, winning two sets by double digits and sweeping the game. 

A season-best .438 hitting percentage says it all for the offense, Markovska scoring a double-double with 11 kills and 14 digs and Thalken hitting .450 with 11 kills. Akima finished with 20 digs on the defensive side. 

The Mustangs put up a season-best .438 hitting percentage against Nicholls State.

Freshman outside hitter Emma Fredrick saw decent time on the court, contributing six kills. 

The Mustangs started the first with an 8-1 lead, only extending this lead to win the set 25-10. 

However, Nicholls State fought harder in the second set. The Mustangs were up 11-4 when the Colonels scored six in a row, making it 11-10. 

The set was neck and neck from there. The Mustangs held a 24-23 advantage on set point when Markovska got the kill to end the set. 

Nicholls State led the third set 6-4, but when Cal Poly went on an 8-1 run to create an 11-6 lead, there was no coming back. The Mustangs won the set 25-13. 

The next tournament will be in Harrisburg, VA at James Madison University for the Dukes Invitational. The Mustangs will take on the University of New Hampshire and James Madison on Sept. 8 and VCU on the ninth.