Lauren Rabaino

ATHENS, Ohio – With two consecutive wins against Xavier and Purdue this weekend, the 16th-seeded Cal Poly volleyball team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 22 years.

The Mustangs posted a season-best .383 hitting percentage Friday evening, battering its way into the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament with a 30-14, 30-19, 30-25 sweep of Xavier at the Convocation Center in a sub-regional hosted by Ohio University.

“I thought our team played extremely well tonight and I really couldn’t have asked for much more,” said Cal Poly head coach Jon Stevenson. “We executed in every facet of play and I was impressed with our effort.”

Leading Cal Poly’s offensive stampede Friday was junior opposite and 2007 Big West Player of the Year Kylie Atherstone, who recorded a match-high 14 kills. Junior outside hitter and fellow all-conference first-team member Ali Waller tallied 12 kills. Junior middle blocker Jaclyn Houston and sophomore outside hitter Gaby Rivera compiled nine kills apiece without committing an error.

As a team, Cal Poly tied a 2007 single-match low with just 10 total errors. All nine Mustangs who appeared in the match recorded a positive hitting percentage. Defensively, the Mustangs outblocked Xavier, 26-5.

Cal Poly then bombarded Purdue with a .325 hitting percentage to advance to the Stanford Regional of the 2007 NCAA Tournament – the program’s first venture into the third round of postseason play since 1985 – with a dominating 30-12, 30-14, 30-27 victory against the Boilermakers Saturday evening.

A match-high 15 kills from Atherstone, nine aces against zero for Purdue and a 17-5 block differential ensured the Mustangs as one of the NCAA Tournament’s 16 remaining teams.

Cal Poly will attempt to take the next step against the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal (29-2) when action at the Stanford Regional gets underway Friday, Dec. 7 in Maples Pavilion. Stanford eliminated Sacramento State Saturday evening, 30-23, 30-11, 30-28.

“We’re on cloud nine right now and happy to represent the Big West Conference at the Stanford Regional,” said Stevenson, who has taken two separate programs to the regional round, following his 2004 appearance with Saint Mary’s. “I’m very proud of this team and the fact we’re playing great at just the right time.”

Cal Poly improved its all-time NCAA Tournament mark to 13-13 and the program’s aggregate postseason record to 19-19 Saturday.

Cal Poly has advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in eight of 14 appearances. The Mustangs, however, have failed to advance past the third round in any showing.

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