Cal Poly Volleyball now sits in second place in the Big West. Credit: Annabelle Fagans | Mustang News, 2022

Cal Poly volleyball went on the road and split a pair of weekend matchups with UC San Diego and UC Irvine on Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday, Oct. 22.

On Friday, the Mustangs (11-9, 8-2 Big West) opened up the weekend with a solid win over the Tritons (10-12, 3-7 Big West), but followed that up with a disappointing four-set loss to the Anteaters (13-7, 6-4 Big West).

Friday vs. UC San Diego

Cal Poly extended its win streak to six with a 3-0 sweep (25-22, 25-19, 25-22) of UC San Diego.

The Tritons opened up set one with a 6-2 lead. Then, the Mustangs got their bearings going and tied the game at 10 apiece off of blocks from senior middle blocker Meredith Phillips and redshirt freshman outside hitter Lizzy Markovska.

From there, the Mustangs went on a 9-4 run to put the score at 19-14. The Tritons continued to battle in set one, tying the score at 22-22.

With both teams three points from victory, the pressure was on. The server for the Tritons failed to get the ball over the net.

The Mustangs, now with another point and the ball in hand, were in control. Markovska added on another block to make the score 24-22 then Markovksa and Phillips teamed up to block Triton’s attack and take the set-one victory.

In set two, neither team could truly get into a rhythm. Scoring happened in short bunches and the Mustangs found themselves up 13-12 halfway through the set.

The Tritons pushed forward to a 16-13 lead off a handful of attacking errors by the Mustangs and big blocks on their side.

Then, redshirt sophomore middle blocker Kate Slack helped get the team going. She had a kill, a block and another kill in the span of four points. Shortly after, Cal Poly was up 18-17. 

Slack finished the night with eight kills and a career-high .889 hitting percentage to go along with four blocks. 

The Mustangs ended set two by scoring seven points in a row, including a kill from the player usually setting the ball, redshirt freshman Emme Bullis.

Set three was similar to the two sets before, as the teams traded points until the Mustangs went down 13-10. Both teams had plenty of attacking errors, and when the Mustangs did score points it was from an ensemble of players. 

Down 13-10, senior opposite hitter Maia Dvoracek, Markovska and Bullis teamed up for kills in a five-point run to take a 15-13 lead. 

However, the Tritons rallied, tying the set at 20-20 and 22-22. Like set two, the Mustangs clutched up by going on a four-point run to end the game and secure the match victory. 

Saturday vs. UC Irvine

The Mustangs then fell 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 23-25, 20-25) to UC Irvine and now sit tied for second place in the Big West. 

In set one, the Anteaters stepped out with a 6-2 lead until the Mustangs followed with their own 6-2 run to bring the score to 8-8. The set was back and forth, with Cal Poly getting kills from Dvoracek and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Tommi Stockham.

The score was 16-16, 19-17 and then tied at 20-20. With the score tied, the Anteaters went on late 4-0 to put them up 24-20 – one point shy of victory. The Mustangs earned a point off of a poor set from the Anteaters, but the side-out did not slow down UC Irvine.

They killed the next ball served to them, taking set one 25-21.

Cal Poly bounced back in set two to take an early 8-4 lead. However, that was lost quickly as Irvine tied it up at 10 apiece. The Mustangs followed with an 8-4 run to lead 18-14 late.

The teams continued to battle, tying the set again at 21-21. The Mustangs went on a four-point run to win: service error, block by Phillips and Stockham, kill by Stockham and kill by Phillips.

Tied 1-1, the match became a best of three sets. In set three, the Mustangs took a quick 6-3 lead but a couple of blocks by UC Irvine tied the set at 7-7. More back-and-forth play put the Mustangs down 17-16. 

UC Irvine extended its lead to 23-18, and Cal Poly scored five of the next six points to make the score 24-23, but on defense, Irvine killed the ball again to win the set.

In a must-win set four, Cal Poly took a large 14-7 lead but later lost that lead, seeing the score tied at 17-17 and 20-20. At 20 apiece, the Anteaters went on a five-point run to end the match.

In a tight squeeze for the top of the Big West standings, the Mustangs will continue their road journey on Friday, Oct. 28 against Cal State Fullerton and Saturday, Oct. 29 at Long Beach State.