Cal Poly Volleyball swept the UC Riverside Highlanders on Oct. 4 inside Mott Athletics Center to extend their Big West winning streak to ten straight sweeps. With the win, the Mustangs (11-5, 4-0 Big West) remain unbeaten in conference play, while the Highlanders (5-9, 1-2 Big West) remain fifth-place in the Big West standings.
“To us, we do not tend to look at records,” head coach Caroline Walters said. “We tend to just stay narrowly focused on what is right in front of us and that is why we have had the success that we have.”
Cal Poly continued their success by catching fire early against UC Riverside. The first set started out back-and-forth until the score was tied at 5-5. However, the Mustangs extended their lead over the Highlanders to 20-7 and went on to win the set 25-12.
Throughout the game, senior outside hitter Nikki Jackson recorded eight total kills while hitting .500 in the game.
“We struggle coming out with energy because we normally have a slow start,” Jackson said. “But, this game we wanted to change that.”
“Nikki hitting .500 is really exciting to see,” junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek said. “It becomes hard [for the opposing team] when you have three hitters in the front row you have to worry about.”
The Mustangs put an exclamation mark on the match point with a Jackson kill assisted by sophomore middle bumper Avalon DeNecochea.
Although Cal Poly looked strong throughout the first set, the Mustangs struggled to find a lead in the second set as Riverside took an early 7-3 advantage.
However, after a timeout, the Mustangs strung together seven consecutive points to take a 10-7 lead. Later, the Mustangs collected six straight points after a Highlander timeout to extend their lead to 22-11. Cal Poly closed out the set 25-16.
“They punched us in the face with those first points and we just settled in,” Walters said.
Cal Poly did not step off the gas pedal in the third set as they took an early 9-6 lead. The Mustangs went on an 8-2 run to extend their lead to 17-8 thanks to two kills and one service ace by Dvoracek. The Highlanders managed to pull the game within six points, but the Mustangs eventually secured the sweep with a 25-16 victory in the final set.
Although the Mustangs had 35 total kills, the team rallied behind their defense in the victory. The Mustangs had 47 total digs as senior libero Mika Dickson recorded a team-high 16 digs and sophomore defensive specialist Lea Ungar added eight digs.
The Mustangs also recorded eight-block assists in the game as Dvoracek and junior middle bumper Madilyn Mercer had three block assists each.
“[Blocking] has been a focus since the Long Beach match pretty much every day in practice,” Walters said.
“When we can set up good blocks, our defense behind us plays amazingly,” Dvoracek said.
The Mustangs will return home to play UC Davis on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. inside Mott Athletics Center.