The Cal Poly volleyball team swept UC Riverside on Friday. | Courtesy photo/Jared Stelfox

Erik Chu

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At the joint Cal Poly/UC Santa Barbara Tournament this past weekend, the Cal Poly volleyball team ended the non-conference portion of its season when against Northern Illinois on Friday and Santa Clara on Saturday.

So far this season, the team’s freshmen — which were ranked No. 23 in’s Top 30 Recruiting Classes for 2014 — have lived up to expectations, leading Cal Poly to its fourth win in a row Friday evening, when the Mustangs defeated Northern Illinois 3-1 (25-23, 28-26, 20-25, 25-21).

Freshman setter Taylor Nelson led Cal Poly with 18 kills and 24 assists, and fellow freshman outside hitter Raeann Greisen added 14 kills, 15 digs and three blocks.

In the clinching fourth set, the Mustangs faced a 10-15 deficit. Undeterred, the Mustangs remained calm and gained a 19-17 lead after back-to-back kills from sophomore middle blocker Taylor Gruenewald. Cal Poly held on down the stretch and clinched the match 25-21.

On Saturday, Cal Poly’s winning streak was snapped by Santa Clara. The Mustangs fell to the Broncos in five sets (21-25, 25-12,23-25, 25-20, 15-8).

In the fourth set, with Cal Poly leading the match 2-1, Nelson suffered an ankle injury. Prior to the injury, Nelson recorded a team-best 15 kills and finished with 21 assists and 11 digs. Without Nelson, the Mustangs couldn’t regroup and lost the deciding fifth set.

The veterans on the team had an exceptional game — junior setter Maddie Kuber led Cal Poly with 22 assists while junior libero Nicole Kessler earned a team-best 25 digs.

“We need to work on a lot of a little things,” head coach Sam Crosson said. “We need to be better passers, communicators, and more courageous on the court.”

Cal Poly opens Big West Conference play on the road against rival UC Santa Barbara on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.

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