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The Cal Poly volleyball team (9-15, 4-10 Big West Conference) lost both of its matches on the road this past weekend, losing in three sets to both Long Beach State (21-4, 11-0) and Cal State Northridge (16-8, 7-5).
On Friday, the heavily favored 49ers raced out to a 15-9 lead in the first set.
The Mustangs were unfazed after their slow start and clawed their way back into the set. Junior outside hitter Hannah Schleis had three kills and sophomore middle blocker Taylor Gruenewald contributed two kills to spark a 10-4 Cal Poly run to tie the match at 19.
However, the Mustangs couldn’t close out the set against the first-place 49ers.
The Mustangs conceded four straight points to the 49ers and lost the set 25-20 on an attack error by Schleis.
The 49ers dominated the first set both offensively and defensively. They had a match-best .419 hitting percentage, and their length caused the Mustangs to only accumulate a .275 hitting mark.
The start of the second set was very similar to the first as the Mustangs got off to another slow start and trailed 5-1 early.
Led by freshman outside hitter Raeann Greisen, the Mustangs were much more in rhythm and played a much cleaner game. Greisen had four kills to lead yet another comeback, and her contributions gave the Mustangs a 13-12 advantage.
However, the Cal Poly lead was short-lived. The Mustangs tried their best to hold on with kills from Schleis and Greisen, but the offensive powerhouse that is Long Beach State proved too much. The 49ers finished off the Mustangs from a kill by opposite Anete Brinke to win the set 25-23.
The Mustangs continued to improve in the second set. They accumulated 17 kills, had a .283 hitting percentage and only committed four errors. In addition, they held the 49ers to a meager .267 hitting mark.
The third set, however, did not go as the Mustangs planned.
They were held to 10 kills, committed 10 errors and had a disastrous .000 hitting percentage. The bright spot for the Mustangs was once again Greisen, who recorded her team-best 18th double-digit kill total of the season, finishing with 17 kills. The 49ers easily won the set 25-17, ending the match.
Despite the loss, the Mustangs showed improvement in their play against a Long Beach State program that is a perennial powerhouse.
“We’re significantly better this time than the last time we played Long Beach,” head coach Sam Crosson said. “We executed our scouting report better. We’re just dealing with inconsistencies, but that’s something to expect with such a young team that we have right now.”
On Saturday night, the Mustangs hoped to bounce back against fifth-place Cal State Northridge.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, they didn’t play much better, as their offensive and defensive woes continued.
In the first set, the Mustangs once again trailed early on 13-5. The Mustangs could not get into any sort of offensive rhythm and finished the set with a .097 hitting percentage.
The Matadors took advantage and did not make many mistakes, only committing four hitting errors and accumulating a great .393 hitting percentage. The Matadors would go on to easily win the set 25-20.
The Mustangs started the second set with more energy and precision, taking an early 4-2 lead. However, the Mustangs continued to have no answer for the Matadors’ offensive attack. A 5-0 run put the Matadors in front 19-18 and they completed the set with a 5-2 run to again win the set 25-20.
In danger of being swept for the second straight match, the Mustangs hoped to salvage their road trip with any type of positivity.
The Mustangs earned the opening point before the Matadors’ offensive attack went into full rhythm. The Matadors earned the next five points and cruised to an easy 25-16 victory to win the set and the match, failing to commit a hitting error and accumulating a .467 hitting percentage.
Despite the losses, junior libero Nicole Kessler continued to play tough on defense, earning a match-leading 12 digs.
“Nothing changes for us,” Crosson said. “It’s always going to be about improvement with us. The way we’re going to improve is when we challenge ourselves in the practice environment.”
Cal Poly closes the regular season with a two-match homestand, beginning Nov. 22 against Hawai’i and ending on Nov. 26 against rival UC Santa Barbara.