The two most dominant volleyball teams in recent Big West Conference history will face off Friday, Oct. 11 when Cal Poly hosts No. 19 University of Hawai’i at 7 pm.
The Mustangs (12-5, 5-0 Big West) have yet to lose a conference match and are riding the longest active home winning streak in Division I at 27 consecutive victories inside Mott Athletics Center. However, the Rainbow Wahine (13-2, 3-1 Big West) lead the all-time series against the Mustangs 40-7 and stand as the only Big West team that are nationally ranked.
Head coach Caroline Walters said she is expecting a competitive, back-and-forth match between the rival powerhouses.
“I mean that’s what it is, that’s what it has been the last two years,” Walters said. “We’re expecting nothing less than that.”
Last season, Cal Poly defeated Hawai’i 3-1 inside Mott Athletic Center before the teams met again three weeks later in Honolulu. The Rainbow Wahine went on to upset then No.11 Cal Poly at home to snap the Mustangs’ program-record of 26 consecutive Big West victories. The defeat was the Mustangs’ first conference loss since 2016. Cal Poly has not lost a match in the Big West since.
Sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips said the match is going to be a tough one, but also noted how excited the team is for the atmosphere of the game. The match has sold out Mott Athletic Center for the past two seasons.
“It literally gives me goosebumps thinking about it right now,” Phillips said. “I remember last year as a freshman, I walked out and I didn’t really know what to expect … my jaw dropped.”
Walters echoed Phillips’ excitement for the match and said the energy in Mott is “unbelievable.”
“I don’t really have the words … to explain what it means to this program, to these girls that work so hard on a daily basis,” Walters said. “To have that true home-court advantage, to have the band, to have the community out, it’s indescribable really.”
Walters said a key for the Mustangs is going to be aggressiveness from the service line. The Rainbow Wahine have played without a libero because their team is so adept to digging and defense, according to Walters.
“As these rallies get longer, it’s not necessarily going to be your hardest swing at the end of those rallies, but it’s going to be your smartest that’s going to end up ending that rally for us,” Walters said.
Regardless of the outcome, Friday night’s match will be pivotal to Big West standings for all teams involved. Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara are the only two teams who remain undefeated in conference play with perfect 5-0 records. The Gauchos host Hawai’i on Saturday, Oct. 12 before hosting Cal Poly one week later on Saturday, Oct. 19.
Walters said a win against the Rainbow Wahine would give the Mustangs confidence in the tightly contested battle for first-place.
“We’re going to play Santa Barbara next week as well, so one of us will have a loss at that point too,” Walters said. “Hopefully we’re able to get a few more victories and keep that last number at zero.”