Volleyball took down CSU Bakersfield in four sets (25-11, 25-21, 11-25, 25-23) on Tuesday, Nov. 15 inside Mott Athletics Center.
The Mustangs (16-11, 13-4 Big West) clinched the late-season victory over the Roadrunners (7-22, 4-13 Big West) to remain locked into third place in the conference standings.
The Mustangs started off down 4-1 in the first set but tied the game at 5-5 on a deceptive dump from redshirt freshman setter Emme Bullis.
“It’s my passers and attackers setting me up,” Bullis said. “A lot of getting kills on the outside and right side opens up the blockers in the middle and allows me to get some dumps.”
At 5-5, Cal Poly went on a 7-2 run with the help of senior opposite hitter Maia Dvoracek to take a 12-7 lead.
The Mustangs continued to dominate, rattling off points to go up 18-8 and force a timeout.
Later in the set, senior middle blocker Meredith Phillips forced a set point on an extended rally before tallying a block and a kill to give Cal Poly the 25-11 victory.
The Mustangs started hot, with Bullis leading the charge to open the second set.
“You have to use your peripheral vision a lot as a setter and [the coaches] help me by telling me ‘you can be aggressive’” Bullis said.
Despite the solid start, CSU Bakersfield tied the game at six apiece. The Roadrunners then earned the lead in one of the most peculiar ways — a high pass by Cal Poly bounced off a light fixture and shot back down.
Bakersfield used the moment to rally and take an 11-7 lead forcing a Mustangs’ timeout. Cal Poly then got hot, stringing together points until they were up 17-13.
Like many instances throughout the season, Cal Poly found themselves up big in set two but let their opposition crawl back, as CSU Bakersfield tied the set back up at 20-20.
With the set even again, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Tommi Stockham tallied two points and the Roadrunners had an attack error to put the Mustangs up 23-20. After CSU Bakersfield earned a point, two consecutive kills by Dvoracek closed out the set at 25-21.
The two squads traded points early for a 4-4 start, but a Bakersfield run put them up 10-5. Then, CSU Bakersfield put together a stretch to build a 10-5 lead.
The Roadrunners continued to build on what would be a 15-1 run that included 11 straight points for an 18-5 lead.
“They got hot in a rotation that’s not good for us offensively and they were serving well, but we did not help ourselves with a lot of unforced errors,” head coach Caroline Walters. said.
The rally didn’t slow down, as CSU Bakersfield dominated throughout set three with a 25-11 victory.
Up 2-1 in the match, Cal Poly bounced back from a weak third set.
“I like the way we rebounded,” Walters said. “I think it would be relatively easy to let what happened in set three affect us.”
The fourth set started was a sign of things to come, as the teams went back and forth to a 10-10 tie.
They continued to trade points until 16-16 when Phillips tallied a kill on the Roadrunners’ back row, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Kate Slack had a solo block and Dvoracek tipped a ball to give the Mustangs a 19-17 lead, the largest of the set.
“What [Dvoracek] does from a serving perspective, digging perspective, attacking perspective… she influences the game at such a high level and is really pulling this team along,” Walters said.
CSU Bakersfield took control of the serve down 21-20 and tied the set off a missed block.
After Bullis set up Dvoracek for another kill, a service error tied the game back at 22-22 and gave the Roadrunners control of the serve.
Phillips earned a point off a tip shot, but Bakersfield bounced back again. At 23-23, Stockham sent a kill across the court to regain the lead.
Senior setter Avalon DeNecochea then stepped in for the match-point serve and bounced it right off a Roadrunner for the 25-23 set win and the 3-1 match victory.
Cal Poly will cross the Pacific Ocean to play the University of Hawaii on Friday, Nov. 18 at 10 p.m. inside the Stan Sheriff Center.
“I’m excited for this young team of 15 underclassmen to go over there in a moment where all the pressure is on the other side and play free and take that into the next few years,” Walters said.