No. 13 Cal Poly beach volleyball (17-15) went 0-4 against four of the top six teams in the country on Friday, Apr. 15 and Saturday, Apr. 16 at the Swanson Beach Complex. 

The Mustangs fell to USC 5-0, battled and lost to Florida State 3-2, got swept by UCLA 5-0 and ended their weekend with a 5-0 loss to LMU.

The team also celebrated senior night, given that this weekend’s Center of Effort Challenge was the last home match of the regular season.

Friday vs. No. 1 USC

The Mustangs fell to USC (27-1) by a score of 5-0 to help the Trojans win their 26th game in a row.

The No. 3 pair of freshman Peyton Dueck and graduate Addison Hermstad’s match finished first. The pairing lost their first set 21-7 and dropped number two 21-11.

No.1 duo freshman Ella Connor and redshirt senior Tia Miric finished second with a 21-12, 21-13 loss. They faced off against Tina Graudina, a member of the Latvian Olympic team in 2020, and Hailey Harward of USC, arguably the best duo in the nation.

Freshman Piper Ferch and redshirt junior Jayelin Lombard, at the third spot, dropped their first set by a score of 21-13. They fought back in the second set, pushing it into extra points, but they eventually fell 23-21.

On the fourth court, redshirt senior Mariah Whalen got her second appearance of the season coming off of injury. She was partnered with Julia Soeller, who was playing her first match of the season and first match as a Mustang. Soeller, a sophomore, transferred from Tulane this year.

“I thought [Soeller] did really really well, all things considered,” head coach Todd Rogers said. “We were playing against some of the top teams and she battled. She’s been a blocker for us the last two months, but we asked her to go on the defense part. I was really impressed.”

After the first four matches ended, all players moved over to court five to watch redshirt sophomore Josie Ulrich and sophomore Piper Naess battle out the third set. Ulrich and Naess won their first set 21-18 and lost a close second set 17-21. Set three was another battle, with the Trojans coming out on top 15-12.

Friday vs. No. 4 Florida State

In the evening, the green and gold took on No. 4 Florida State (25-8) and fell by a score of 3-2. 

No. 3 Dueck and Hermstad went 21-14, 21-15 in favor of Florida State. Dueck came off the court and immediately iced her right shoulder. She did not play the rest of the weekend.

“Versatility and adaptability are two things I take from this weekend because of people being injured and lineups being switched around,” Hermstad said. “If we still pull out wins… I think that is most important.”

The No. 5 spot finished next, as Ulrich and Naess lost 21-12 and 21-9. Ulrich was seen in a sling on Saturday and did not compete in the rest of the tournament, either.

No. 4 Whalen and Soeller pushed set one long. Already down 2-0, the Mustangs needed a win here to have any chance at victory. However, they lost 27-25 and set two finished 21-14 in favor of Florida State.

Despite the match loss, the Mustangs still had to finish out competition on courts one and two.

At No. 2, Ferch and Lombard lost set one 12-21. The girls then bounced back and pulled at a close second set 21-18. In set three, the teams went back and forth until Ferch and Lombard won 16-14 to give Cal Poly their first point of the weekend.

Everyone surrounded court one for the final set of the match and the final set of day one of the tournament. 

Connor and Miric won set one 21-15 and lost set two 19-21. In the tiebreaker set, the Seminoles and Mustangs went back and forth until Connor and Miric pulled out the win 15-13, leading to cheers filling Swanson Beach Complex.

Even though the Mustangs dropped the game against Florida State, they ended the match on a positive note heading into day two.

Saturday vs. No. 3 UCLA

With rain earlier in the day and wind during the match, the games against No. 3 UCLA (27-4) were definitely impacted by their environment. The Mustangs lost 5-0.

“Sometimes the wet sand is more compact, so it’s springy,” Ferch said about the playing field.

At No. 3 Hermstad had a new partner, Whalen, as a result of Dueck’s injury. This was the first match of the season that this pairing played together for.

Hermstad and Whalen worked through their new pairing in set one with a 21-11 loss. After that, the two battled competitively in a 21-19 loss to the Bruins.

No. 2 Ferch and Lombard struggled in their first game of the day, losing in two sets 21-16, 21-12.

“Every weekend shows [me] new weaknesses that other players might not have highlighted in [my] game,” Ferch said. “So we gotta keep grinding.”

At No. 4, Soeller was playing the third match of her Mustang career with her new partner redshirt junior Eleonore Johansen. In their first set together, they lost 21-16, and, although it was an eventful one, the duo lost set two by a score of 21-18.

On court one, Connor and Miric lost set one 21-15 but put pressure on their opponents in set two, falling 27-25. 

The final match of the game was on court five. Naess was still on the court but was now partnered with redshirt junior Delaney Peranich. The duo lost set one 21-9 and then fought back for a 21-17 win in the second set to force set three. In the final set, they lost a close one 15-13 to give UCLA the sweep.

Saturday vs. No. 6 LMU

At No. 6, the lowest-ranked of the four visiting teams, LMU (25-5) faced off against the Mustangs for Cal Poly’s final match of the home tournament.

The Lions beat Cal Poly 5-0, but despite the final tally, four of the five courts were separated by three points halfway into set one.

At No. 4, Soeller and Johansen fell 21-15 and 21-14 to close out their day. No. 2 Ferch and Lombard started set one down 13-12, then slipped in a 21-17 loss. In set number two, they lost 21-19. Ferch had her non-attacking pinky taped up through both games on Saturday.

No. 3 Hermstad and Whalen lost by a combined score of four points – the smallest margin of victory –, as the Lions took both sets 21-19. 

At court five, Naess and Peranich lost 21-16 and 23-21 in straight sets.

To cap off the weekend, Cal Poly’s number one duo took the Lions to three sets. Connor and Miric took set one 21-18 but dropped the second by a score of 21-14. The final set was tied at 10-10, but the Lions dominated the rest of the match and won 15-11.

Senior Night

After Cal Poly’s match against LMU, the seniors on both teams were honored. First, Macy Gordon of LMU was called up. Gordon, a former Mustang who played all of her undergraduate career at Cal Poly, embraced her former coach Todd Rogers.

On the other side of the net, Hermstad, Miric, Johansen and Vanessa Roscoe were honored. The seniors received signs, custom beach volleyball towels, flowers, leis and floral headdresses.

“I feel like I have had a really great career at Cal Poly,” Miric said. “Cal Poly is the place where I feel like I have become who I am today and who I am going to be. Cal Poly, academically and athletically, has helped me grow so much. It means everything to me.”

Hermstad felt the same way about her last action at Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex.

“I’m not quite ready to let volleyball go yet,” Hermstad said. “I am really grateful for the family that has brought me in and welcomed me here. It has been a really special year and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

The Mustangs will travel to Salt Lake City, Ut. to participate in a tournament starting on Friday, Apr. 22 at 10 a.m. against the University of Arizona.