The Mustangs now hold onto sole possession of third place in the Big West. Credit: Kayla Stuart | Mustang News, 2022

Cal Poly volleyball went on the road and took down both UC Davis and UC Riverside on Thursday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 12 to move into sole possession of third place in the Big West standings.

The Mustangs (15-11, 12-4 Big West) battled hard in a five-set victory over the Aggies (12-14, 7-9 Big West) before handing the Highlanders (4-21, 2-14 Big West) a three-set sweep on Saturday

Thursday vs. UC Davis

Cal Poly kicked off their two-game, weekend road trip with a five-set, comeback win against UC Davis inside University Credit Union Center on Thursday (12-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-19, 21-19).

In winning, the Mustangs avoided back-to-back defeats for the first time since September.

The Mustangs got off to a slow start, and to make matters worse, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Tommi Stockham was forced to leave the game due to an injury after an attack error to put the Aggies up 11-3.

Davis proceeded to rattle off scoring runs of four, three and three points to eventually put the set away by a 25-12 margin.

However, the momentum began to swing towards Cal Poly in the second set. 

After starting the set with a 4-3 lead, the Mustangs went on a 6-1 stretch that gave them the sudden 10-4 lead. Later in the set, the Mustangs took a 21-14 lead before UC Davis went on a 4-1 run to cut the advantage down to 22-18. Cal Poly then scored the next three points to win the set 25-18, and even the score at 1-1.

From there, the entire match became a barnburner full of clutch play on both sides. Despite a valiant effort by the Mustangs in a back-and-forth third set which saw them trim the 21-17 lead held by UC Davis down to just 22-21, Cal Poly again ran out of gas late, and Davis was able to pull away with the 25-21 set victory and the 2-1 advantage.

The Mustangs then turned it on in the fourth and fifth sets with their backs against the wall.

A 5-2 run by Cal Poly after leading 7-6 gave the Mustangs a four-point lead in set four. Later in the set, they would extend their own lead again, after a 3-1 run while up 17-13 gave them a six-point advantage. Up 23-19, a kill from senior opposite hitter Maia Dvoracek followed by a kill from redshirt freshman hitter Lizzy Markovska finished off the set for the Mustangs, 25-19, and forced set five.

The fifth of Thursday’s match was perhaps as back-and-forth as any set the Mustangs have played all season with a total of 12 ties and four lead changes. After a scoring run put the Aggies up 11-7, Cal Poly stormed back with five points in a row to take a 12-11 lead. 

From there, the teams traded blows, with the Mustangs holding off five UC Davis match points. Tied at 19, the ground under the Aggies’ feet finally gave out, as they missed on an attack. In doing so, the Mustangs found themselves in a position to put the match away and did so one point later to seal their second five-set win of the campaign.

Dvoracek led the Mustangs with a season-high 22 kills, and her 14 digs gave her a 17th double-double of the season to go along with four aces and a pair of blocks. Markovska also recorded both a double-double and set a career-high, courtesy of her 13 kills and new career-best mark of 19 digs.

Redshirt sophomore Amy Hiatt came off the bench in a big way, finishing with a season-high 15 kills while redshirt freshman setter Emme Bullis had a stellar night, with career-highs of 62 assists and 16 digs to give her a double-double as well, her 12th of the season.

Saturday vs. UC Riverside

The Mustangs followed up their five-set win on Thursday with a much more efficient three-set sweep of UC Riverside on Saturday night at the SRC (25-12, 25-15, 25-23).

The win was the Mustangs’ 10th sweep of the season, while the Highlanders dropped their eighth straight game, and 14th straight to the Green and Gold.

In stark contrast to Thursday night’s comeback, Cal Poly seemed to be sorely focused on leaving Riverside as quickly as possible, as a 3-1 lead was the closest UCR came in the first set to ever controlling it. 

After making it 4-3, the Mustangs would proceed to crack off scoring runs of five, seven and three points, en route to eventually putting the set away by a 25-12 margin following a Highlander service error and a Dvoracek ace—one of her four in the match.

The second set followed a very similar pattern to the first. This time, however, it was the Mustangs who began the set with a lead, as they instantly put together a 5-1 lead. However, the Highlanders did attempt to make it a fight, as they scored three straight to make it 5-4 in favor of the Mustangs.

Once again, though, that was as close as it would get. For the second set in a row, Cal Poly put together multiple large scoring runs, most notably the 6-0 run they went on while up 10-6. Thanks this time to a kill by Markovska, they were able to take the set with relative ease, by a 25-15 tally.

The third set, however, was almost an entirely different story. Though it was won by the Mustangs, the two squads suddenly found themselves going back and forth, with UCR controlling the score most of the way. 

The Mustangs were down by as many as five points multiple times in the set. However, after a 3-0 scoring run while down 22-19, they took the lead on back-to-back kills by Stockham. One point later, they secured the set and match win by a score of 25-23.

Dvoracek once again came away with a double-double, as she led the Mustangs with 13 kills, and finished the night with 12 digs to go along with four aces.

Bullis had a stellar night once again, with a game-high of 36 assists. 

As a team, the Mustangs recorded a .408 hitting percentage to UC Riverside’s .126. Cal Poly also had a season-high 56 digs compared to the 41 of the Highlanders.

The Mustangs will look to continue their most recent hot streak when they return home to face the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners on Tuesday, Nov. 15 inside Mott Athletics Center at 6 p.m.