Cal Poly Volleyball capped off its regular season with two victories inside Mott Athletics Center to extend its nation’s-best home winning streak to 32 matches. The Mustangs swept UC Irvine on Friday, Nov. 22 before taking down Cal State Fullerton 3-1 on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Five seniors played their final home matches for the Mustangs, who finished the season with a 20-8 overall record and second in the Big West Conference with a record of 13-3.
“[This team’s] energy on the court is different,” senior libero Mika Dickson said. “We don’t lean on one person, so it’s a lot more evenly spread out. We’re definitely learning a lot more about each other this season than in past seasons.”
Friday versus UC Irvine
A service ace from UC Irvine’s Kelly Negron put the Anteaters on the scoreboard first in set one, but a service error and a Cal Poly block put the Mustangs ahead at 2-1. Both teams traded points in search of the lead, but neither team could mount an advantage greater than two as the score drew equal at 14-14.
After the set became tied again at 24-24, kills from junior middle blocker Madilyn Mercer and junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek set Cal Poly up for the set point. Senior outside hitter Nikki Jackson followed up with a service ace for the first-set victory at 27-25.
The second set was much less back-and-forth as Mustangs jumped to an early 5-2 lead behind kills from Jackson and multiple UC Irvine attack errors. Back-to-back service aces from Dvoracek pushed the Mustangs ahead at 18-10. The Anteaters failed to cut their deficit as the Mustangs finished out the second set comfortably at 25-15.
Dickson led Cal Poly to an early 5-1 lead in the third set with three service aces. A service ace by Anteater Carrissa MacDonald granted UC Irvine their first lead at 9-8, but service errors and attack errors kept Cal Poly close behind. After a tie score of 22-22, back-to-back kills from Mercer pushed Cal Poly to a third-set victory of 25-22.
Dvoracek totaled a match-high 16 kills and added six digs.
“For [Dvoracek] to be as efficient as she has in all these matches for the Big West, it’s unbelievable,” head coach Caroline Walters said. “I’m looking forward to next Tuesday and hopefully a Big West Player of the Year for her. But the coolest thing about that kid is I know she’d trade it for a Big West Championship, I know she’d trade it for a win in the NCAA Tournament.”
Sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips hit .750 for six kills while Mercer added 10 kills of her own.
“I really liked what I saw from both Mercer and Meredith Phillips,” Walters said. “I think we can get [Phillips] a few more balls, she was our most efficient attacker.”
“We’re excited to play hard for our seniors, it’ll be their last game in Mott,” Dvoracek said. “We want to treat it like we have all year, as just another game. Whatever happens in the rest of the conference is out of our control.
Saturday versus Cal State Fullerton
Cal State Fullerton put themselves on the board first through a service ace and a Cal Poly error, but the Mustangs responded with three consecutive points to pull ahead at 3-2. Both teams traded points, but neither team led by more than two as the score was extended to 11-11.
After an attack error by Fullerton’s Julia Crawford drew the score equal again at 18-18, the Titans followed up with a 7-1 run to close out the first-set victory.
“We just came in and weren’t one hundred percent focused or checked in,” senior outside hitter Jessica McRoskey said. “We were letting defensive plays kind of go that I think we wouldn’t typically be giving up.”
The Titans’ momentum continued into the second set as they jumped to an early 5-3 lead behind back-to-back kills from Tyler Fezzey. A kill from Dvoracek granted the Mustangs’ the lead at 9-8 before Cal Poly went on a 4-1 run to extend the gap. Cal Poly maintained its lead as the set came to a close at 25-20.
Dvoracek led with a match-high 22 kills.
“[Dvoracek] is definitely carrying the load right now,” Walter said. “And when you get to the tournament, they’re going to know that and put some big blockers in front of her. So we need to offensively spread out a little bit.”
A kill from McRoskey capped off a 5-1 run by Cal Poly to open up the third set. The Mustangs followed up with a 12-5 run to widen the gap by 11 points — their largest lead of the night up to that point. The Titans were held to an additional six points as the Mustangs remained ahead for a 25-11 victory.
“I was really proud of us because every year senior night is a little rough at the beginning, just because of the emotions that are flowing through everyone,” Dickson said. “I thought we did a really good job of flipping the energy from the first set and turning the whole game around.”
Four different Cal Poly players produced kills to put the Mustangs ahead early in the fourth set. The Titans failed to take the lead throughout the remainder of the set after a tie score of 3-3. A 6-1 Cal Poly run put Fullerton out of reach before Dvoracek and Mercer ended the set with kills for a 3-1 Mustang victory.
The Titans were held to a .148 hitting percentage while the Mustangs totaled a hitting percentage of .298. Mercer added nine kills with a .750 hitting percentage while Phillips produced eight kills.
“I’m super thankful to the girls for their trust and for it not really feeling any different than the past years for me,” Walter said. “Also for my staff and how hard they work, for the community support … I just have so much support. We’ve had adversity this year for sure … A lot of people have stepped up and this group has kept believing.”