Beating UC Irvine 3-0 in an Oct. 8 matchup may have given the Cal Poly volleyball team some confidence going into Friday’s match, but the Anteaters who walked into Mott Athletic Center were a different team than before. UC Irvine had won four of its last six games and was looking to push the Mustangs out of playoff contention.
But the Mustangs (17-5, 9-2 Big West) rallied to win their sixth straight at home, taking the match 19-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-22, 15-10 to move into sole possession of second place in conference with CSU Long Beach’s loss to conference-leading Hawaii.
Three Mustangs had more than 10 kills, led, as usual, by freshman outside hitter Adlee Van Winden. She tallied a career-high 22 to go with nine digs. Sophomore middle blocker Savannah Niemen chipped in 16 kills and fellow sophomore outside hitter Raeann Greisen added 12 as well. Sophomore setter Taylor Nelson had a career night with 61 assists and a team-high 17 digs.
The Anteaters (11-13, 5-7) ran out a 12-6 lead early on and maintained their advantage through the end of the set, taking the first set 25-19. The second set was back and forth until UC Irvine pulled ahead with a slim 17-14 lead, but the Mustangs powered through with an 11-2 run to win the set 25-19 and even the score.
The sides continued to trade points through most of the third set as neither team could manage more than a four point lead. But just like the second set, the Mustangs built off of kills by Van Winden and Nelson to take five of the last eight points and win 25-22.
However, the Anteaters refused to be put away easily, pulling out a 17-11 lead in the fourth on their way to a 25-22 set win to tie it at two games apiece. That meant a fifth set for the Mustangs, the fourth of the season and the first since a loss to Long Beach Oct. 24, and Cal Poly went up early before taking the set 15-10 and the game.
The Mustangs’ 17-5 record is their best through 22 games since 2006, when they won the Big West Conference title. Cal Poly will host UC Davis (12-14, 7-5) on Saturday and look to build more momentum before back-to-back road games next weekend.