The Mustangs were only able to muster one win on their weekend road trip to UC Riverside and UC Davis. | Christa Lam/Mustang News

Erik Chu
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The Cal Poly volleyball team (8-12, 3-7 Big West Conference) split its road trip this past weekend, defeating UC Riverside (2-20, 0-10) 3-2 Friday and losing to UC Davis (12-11, 7-3) 3-1 Saturday night.

The Mustangs came out sluggish in their match against last-place UC Riverside. The Highlanders pounced on the Mustangs’ lackadaisical start and produced a 13-6 run to win the first set.

In the second set, the Mustangs were more in-tune and got into a rhythm, until two costly hitting errors and two Highlander aces erased Cal Poly’s 19-15 lead and gave UC Riverside the 20-19 advantage. The Mustangs failed to respond to these crippling plays as the Highlanders’ sizable front wall gave the Mustangs trouble through the entire match.

UC Riverside had 13 blocks, compared to only seven for Cal Poly.

In danger of being swept by the last place team in the conference, Cal Poly came out of the break in the third set with more energy and precision.

Led by freshmen Casey Carroll and Bailey Roach, the Mustangs played a much cleaner game of volleyball. They amassed 17 kills, committed only three errors and had a great .378 hitting percentage. Defensively, the Mustangs also dominated the set, holding the Highlanders to a meager .150 hitting percentage and ultimately winning the set 25-19.

The Mustangs looked to continue their newfound success, but things got dicey. UC Riverside went on a 7-2 run that included two back-to-back aces and led 13-11. However, sophomore outside hitter Hannah Schleis kickstarted a 6-1 Cal Poly run with successive kills. As in the second set, the Mustangs could not hold onto their lead and the Highlanders caught up and tied the set at 24. Once again, Schleis came up in the clutch with another kill. After that, a UC Riverside hitting error allowed Cal Poly to square the match at two games apiece.

With momentum after winning two consecutive games, the Mustangs pounced on the golden opportunity in the fifth set to win the match and raced out to a 5-1 lead. The Mustangs would win the set 15-6 with eight kills, only two errors and a .429 hitting percentage.

“We showed a lot of grit and determination, especially when our backs were against the wall,” head coach Sam Crosson said. “We shouldn’t have been down two sets, but the way we fought back showed all the growth our team has made this season.”

Cal Poly hoped to parlay its come-from-behind win into an upset victory over third-place UC Davis (12-11, 7-3), but the Aggies had too much firepower for the seventh-place Mustangs.

The Mustangs continued their tradition of dropping the opening set, losing 25-20 after trailing the entire set.

The following set, Cal Poly came out with more energy and precision to lead 16-11. The Mustangs were able to grab the lead through three kills from freshman outside hitter Raeann Greisen and two kills by sophomore Taylor Gruenewald.

The Mustangs tallied 13 kills and only two errors, along with a match-best .478 hitting mark. Cal Poly would eventually go on to win the set 25-20 to tie the match a one game apiece.

In the third set, the Mustangs continued to play well. They capitalized on the Aggies’ mistakes and received a boost in the form of an ace from sophomore Anna Gorman to race out to a 6-1 lead.

However, UC Davis returned to form, and tied the set at 11-11. The Mustangs tried their best to hold onto control through kills from outside hitter Casey Carroll and Greisen, but the offensive powerhouse that is UC Davis proved too much. The Aggies overtook the Mustangs at 18-17 and finished off the set with a 7-2 run to win the set 25-19.

UC Davis’ defensive domination and offensive attack continued in the fourth set.  Cal Poly was held to a disastrous .029 hitting percentage and was forced into 9 errors, allowing the Aggies to take the set and the match with a very comfortable 25-16 win.

Though the loss to UC Davis was obviously disappointing, the Mustangs’ road trip was not entirely a failure, as evidenced in their win at UC Riverside.

“Overall, the road trip was a success,” said Crosson. “Our youngsters are growing up fast and our team is starting to develop an identity.”

Cal Poly opens a two-match home stand when welcoming UC Irvine to Mott Athletic Center on Friday, Nov. 7.

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