Maia Dvoracek (pictured) had 13 kills in both of the weekend matchups. Credit: Kayla Stuart | Mustang News, 2022

Cal Poly volleyball opened the weekend with a sweep of CSU Northridge and closed it by getting swept by UC Santa Barbara on Friday, Nov. 4 and Saturday, Nov. 5 inside Mott Athletics Center.

With the win over the Matadors (7-19, 2-12 Big West) and the loss to the Gauchos (16-8, 12-2 Big West), the Mustangs (13-11, 10-4 Big West) have now dropped to fourth place in the conference standings.

YouTube video
Video by Nate Mills

Friday vs. CSUN

The Friday night sweep was close throughout at 26-24, 25-23, 25-23, but Cal Poly fought out the victory.

The first set began neck-and-neck, with the Mustangs and the Matadors battling for early momentum. The teams traded points, including a stretch of back-and-forth action with the score teeter tottering from 7-7 to 13-13. 

CSUN was able to gain some control, outscoring Cal Poly to an 18-14 scoreline and forcing two timeouts in quick succession for the Mustangs. The timeouts helped Cal Poly regain momentum and bounce back to tie the game at 20-20. 

The two teams continued to fight to 24-24, where Cal Poly broke through and scored two straight points for the set, capped off by a block from redshirt sophomore outside hitter Tommi Stockham.

In the second set, both teams again came out firing. Cal Poly took the early advantage with a 9-6 lead but CSUN soon responded to tie it at 10-10. The Mustangs and Matadors continued to battle, with a 15-13 Cal Poly lead soon turning into a tight affair at 20-20. 

After much drama and continuous action, the Mustangs gained control. Following another tie at 23-23, consecutive spikes from senior opposite side hitter Maia Dvoracek and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Amy Hiatt gave Cal Poly the set, 25-23. 

The third and final set continued the tightly-contested sets between the two teams. This time it was the Matadors with the early advantage at 9-6. A four-point Cal Poly run provided some momentum and gave them a 10-9 lead. 

The teams started trading back and forth and a 14-14 scoreline followed. The Mustangs jumped out to a 19-15 advantage but the Matadors would not be denied, scoring six straight to make it 21-19. A four-point response by Cal Poly led to a 23-21 score. 

From there, CSUN tried to mount a late comeback but was shut down at 24-23 by a Stockham spike for the set and match point for Cal Poly, 25-23.

“Both offensively and defensively, when we were checked in on the game plan, good things happened,” head coach Caroline Walters said. “When we weren’t, CSUN was able to rattle off a few points in a row.”

Cal Poly dominated on offense with 50 kills compared to 31 from CSUN and a .228 hitting percentage against .168 for the Matadors. However, the Mustangs struggled with errors, committing 24 compared to 13 for CSUN.

The duo of Stockham and Dvoracek were once again huge in this victory, with Stockham accumulating 22 kills and Dvoracek grabbing 13 to go with a .409 hitting percentage for the senior. They were aided by redshirt freshman setter Emme Bullis, who compiled 44 assists on the night.

Saturday vs. UCSB

Cal Poly was swept 25-19, 26-24, 25-16 by UCSB on Friday night, the same result as last year’s Blue-Green rivalry matchup at Mott Athletics Center.

After an early challenge by Cal Poly in set one, Stockham got the Mustangs on the board with a kill. However, a handful of avoidable errors led to the Mustangs finding themselves down 4-1. 

Senior middle blocker Meredith Phillips and freshman libero London Haberfield were impact players early, battling to tie the score at 6-6 and 15-15.

At 17-15 in favor of the Gauchos, UCSB challenged and won a tip call to take a three-point lead. An attack error then put the Gauchos up 19-15 and forced the Mustangs to take a timeout. 

UCSB forced another Cal Poly timeout later in the set before defensive miscommunications led to a 25-19 Gaucho win.

Cal Poly flipped the script in the second set by jumping out to a 7-3 lead thanks to a handful of UCSB miscues.

After a timeout, the Gauchos tied the game at 7-7 largely due to tips that threw off the passing and setting game of the Mustangs.

With Cal Poly down 11-10, redshirt freshman Lizzy Markovska kept a sloppy rally alive with a pass over the net from the stands. Later in the rally, Markovska blocked a Gaucho attack to tie the game at 11-11.

Momentum then shifted with powerful kills from Dvoracek, Stockham and Markovska to put the Mustangs up 15-12. 

A Gaucho timeout proved to be effective, as UCSB came out with four straight points to force a Cal Poly timeout.

It was another big timeout, as the Mustangs then went on a 4-1 run of their own to recapture the lead. 

With the score at 20-20, the set became a first to five points. The Mustangs got two points from Dvoracek and a Guachos attack that was sent long before UCSB got one back on an attacking error.

A Markovska attack put the Mustangs up 24-21, one point away from clinching the set win. 

However, the Gauchos then rattled off five straight points to steal the set-two victory at 26-24. 

“We’ve been up quite a few times in set two this season…and it feels at times we are afraid of the moment, we kind of shy away from it,” head coach Caroline Walters said.

In set three, with their backs against the wall, the Mustangs came out down 5-0 and called a timeout to regroup. Dvoracek got Cal Poly on the board, but the team still trailed 8-2. 

Dvoracek continued to roll individually, helping the team cut the lead to 9-11 with four kills of her own. However, the team eventually fell behind at 16-10. 

The UCSB domination continued, as they found themselves up 24-14 late in the set. Despite this, Dvoracek kept the energy high with a block and a scream back to her team.

“If we’re gonna lose I want to lose swinging,” Dvoracek said. “If we’re going to go down, I want to go down as hard as we can.”

Despite Dvoracek’s efforts, the Mustangs eventually fell 25-16.

After the loss, Walters had incredibly high praise for Dvoracek. 

“I’ve coached a lot of good players in my time – 14 years – I have never coached anyone like her,” Walters said. “Her genuine care for the game and improvement, going above and beyond to put her body in a situation where she can come back and play and do what she is doing late in matches is remarkable.”

The Mustangs will have a rare Thursday matchup when they take on the UC Davis Aggies on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. inside the University Credit Union Center.