Cal Poly Volleyball climbed out of a 2-0 deficit with three consecutive set wins against Georgia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday, Dec. 6 inside Maples Pavilion. Junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek had a team-high 14 kills in the victory. Senior outside hitter Torrey Van Winden, who made her first return to the court since last season, added 13 kills to advance the Mustangs to the second round.
“I think it takes a very special group of people to do something like that,” Van Winden said. “Being able to pull that off just proves that we have all the pieces we need to go really far in this tournament.”
Georgia put themselves on the board first through a kill by junior outside hitter Rachel Ritchie. Van Winden responded with a kill of her own to even the score at 1-1 before a block from Avalon DeNecochea granted Cal Poly their first lead of the set.
A block from sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips drew Cal Poly level at 13-13 before the Mustangs produced a 4-1 run to pull ahead with their largest lead of the set. However, back-to-back Cal Poly attack errors equalized the score again at 19-19.
After trading points to a score of 23-23, a Georgia kill and a Cal Poly attack error combined to give the Bulldogs the first set victory at 25-23.
Georgia carried its momentum into the second set and jumped to an early 4-0 lead behind two service aces. Cal Poly rebounded with three consecutive points later in the set to shorten the deficit to one point at 7-6.
The Mustangs took advantage of a 4-1 run to take their first lead at 16-14. After a tie score of 17-17, Georgia regained the lead through back-to-back kills from sophomore outside hitter Kayla Rivera. Georgia maintained its three-point lead as a Cal Poly attack error capped off the second set at 25-22.
Georgia and Cal Poly traded points to open the third set until a tie score of 9-9. Georgia followed up with a 4-2 run thanks to two kills from junior middle blocker Kianna Young to take the lead at 13-11.
The Mustangs remained close behind until a kill from Van Winden drew the score level yet again at 17-17. Cal Poly went on a 4-2 run before a Van Winden kill brought the score to 24-20 in Cal Poly’s favor. A Georgia attack error ended any chance at a Bulldog sweep as the Mustangs secured the third set victory at 25-20.
“I think our defense stepped up,” head coach Caroline Walters said when asked about Cal Poly’s third set win. “I thought [we were] pretty lax in sets one and two in terms of making plays and creating energy for ourselves. I thought we were getting served off the court, and we were not serving aggressive enough in sets one and two.”
The fourth set began in a similar fashion, as Cal Poly and Georgia traded points to a score of 14-14. The set’s parity continued as the score was extended to 19-19 through back-and-forth play. Two consecutive kills from Evans gave Georgia a 21-20 lead, but Cal Poly managed a 5-1 run to cap off the fourth set with a 25-22 victory.
Cal Poly opened the fifth set with a commanding 8-4 lead thanks to kills from Dvoracek. Georgia pulled the score within three points at 10-7, but a 3-0 run by the Mustangs doubled their advantage at 13-7. Evans produced back-to-back kills to bring the score to 13-9 before a service error put Cal Poly within one point of victory at 14-9.
Senior outside hitter Jessica McRoskey provided the final kill of the match as Cal Poly earned the reverse sweep.
“I think ‘Mott Magic’ traveled up the 101,” Walters said. “We were so lucky to have so many of our people here tonight … To have the support of a community that is willing to drive three and a half hours for these girls is a testament to their hard work. It’s a testament to our town and their love of Cal Poly. It absolutely was a huge factor for us tonight.”
Cal Poly will play the winner of No. 3 Stanford versus Denver on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m.
“We celebrate, we take it in and we love every single second of what gave us that moment out on the court,” Dvoracek said. “We look at each other, and we’re very happy … but the mindframe is switched now. We have work to do.”