The Cal Poly volleyball team was stunned Saturday night at Mott Gym, losing to UC Irvine in five games after taking the first two, 30-24, 30-16, 30-32, 25-30, 13-15.

The No. 19 Mustangs came into the match riding a couple of impressive streaks – they had won 22 games in a row (until the third game Saturday) and had not lost in their last 10 matches.

The Mustangs (17-5 8-1 Big West Conference) looked absolutely dominant in the first two games behind the play of sophomore outside hitter Kylie Atherstone, who had 14 of her 21 kills in the first two games.

“Yeah, (the lack of opportunities) was frustrating, but we were all frustrated out there,” Atherstone said.

After the first two games, the Anteaters (8-14, 3-5) did just enough to hang around and scrape by. Despite a serious height disadvantage up front, they played excellent defense on Atherstone, closing down lanes that had previously been open.

“We have had trouble coming out in the third game, so we came out fired up,” Atherstone said. “I don’t know what happened.”

It was clear the momentum was on the side of UC Irvine after the third game, which the Anteaters took 32-30 after the Mustangs rallied to tie the score at 29.

Despite being outhit .252 to .109, the Anteaters capitalized on four Cal Poly service errors late in the game.

In the fourth game, the Mustangs again outhit UC Irvine to the tune of .206 to .139, but were unable to overcome sloppy play and seven more service errors. The Anteaters effectively took Atherstone out of the game, holding the reigning Big West and National player of the week to a single kill in the frame.

It looked like the Mustangs had finally regained momentum in the decisive fifth game. Cal Poly stormed to a 5-1 lead, taking advantage of a pair of UC Irvine service errors. After it was knotted at 13, UC Irvine’s Trisha White came up with the Anteaters’ lone block of the night to make it 14-13. After another Mustang error, it was all over.

The crowd of 1,041 was deflated and shocked.

Cal Poly edged UC Irvine in every major category, including hitting percentage (.209 to .141). The only discrepancy is service errors, which saw the Mustangs commit 18 to the Anteaters’ 12.

Atherstone aside, the Mustangs also received superb play from libero Kristin Jackson, who had 26 digs and saved numerous rallies. Setter Chelsea Hayes also turned in a stellar performance, dishing out 61 assists.

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