Cal Poly volleyball fell to top-seeded Hawaii in their final home game of the year on Saturday, Nov. 20 inside Mott Athletics Center.
Cal Poly (13-16, 11-7 Big West) lost in the second matchup of the year between the two teams in three sets, 22-25, 18-25, 20-25. With the victory, Hawaii (20-5, 17-1 Big West) extended their winning streak to nine games.
Emotions were high for the game, as it was senior night for the Mustangs. Four senior players, outside hitter Nicole Cavote, outside hitter Jamie Stivers, defensive specialist Lea Ungar and defensive specialist Taylor Rose, were honored before the game with a commemorative ceremony.
The Mustangs used the energy provided by Mott Magic to jump out to an early 8-2 lead in the first set. The teams traded points back-and-forth until the lead was 12-6. Then, the Rainbow Wahine turned it on and went on a 8-2 run to tie the game at 14-14 and take control of the game. Hawaii then closed out the first set 25-22 after winning eight of the final 15 points.
In the second set, the teams split the first four points to result in a 4-4 deadlock. After Hawaii took yet another lead, Cal Poly brought the match to within three points at 13-10 on a kill by junior setter Avalon DeNecochea. The Rainbow Wahine won six of the next seven points to take a 19-11 lead. The teams split the points down the stretch, but Hawaii ultimately won 25-18.
The third began like the first, with the Mustangs taking an early lead, this time 4-1. Hawaii then went on a 14-4 run to establish a 15-5 lead. Cal Poly did not go away, however, as they stormed back to tie the game at 18. Hawaii then took back the momentum and won the next three points and seven of the final nine points to win the set 25-20, and the match 3-0.
Redshirt freshman outside hitter Tommi Stockham led the Mustangs with nine kills in the game while junior middle blocker Meredith Phillips had six kills to go along with a game-high five blocks on the night.
Freshman libero Peyton Dueck had a game-high 15 digs while Cal Poly had a .142 hitting percentage compared to Hawaii’s .252 percentage. DeNecochea totalled 28 assists, five digs, four kills and two blocks on the night.
Postgame, DeNecochea talked about how big the moment was before the game when they celebrated the seniors.
“I came into Cal Poly with the class that celebrated their senior night tonight, so that just made it extra emotional for me,” DeNecochea said. “I’ve spent my entire college experience with these people, and it’s just sad to feel like that was my last home game with them. So it’s just hard, but it’s also fun to celebrate them and to appreciate the good times we’ve had over the past four years.”
After the game, Ungar discussed what it was like going into this game as a senior.
“Honestly, going in as a senior it really puts in perspective like this is my last game in Mott,” Ungar said. “Regardless of the outcome, I’m going out there, going to play to the best of my ability, and control what I can control. And just ride with my girls, one last time.”
Head coach Caroline Walters looked ahead to the final two games on the Mustangs’ schedule.
“Two big matches for sure against a team we went five with, and then an Irvine team that came in and swept us at home,” Walters said. “So, two very athletic teams. Two teams that I think we will have a much more prepared team for, in terms of defense, just with the strides we made the past few days. And the challenge was set to [us] after this match.”
Cal Poly will play their second to last match of the season on Friday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. against UC Irvine inside Bren Events Center.