The No. 24 Cal Poly volleyball team (16-7, 10-1) tightened their grip on first place in the Big West Conference standings this weekend with wins over University of the Pacific and UC Davis as they returned to Mott Gym after three weeks on the road.
“We all contributed to this win. Everyone played a really well all-around game, both defensively and offensively,” senior setter Chelsea Hayes said.
Junior opposite Kylie Atherstone’s match-high 26 kills helped the Mustangs avenge their only conference loss of the season (a 3-1 loss to the Tigers on Sept. 29) with a 24-30, 30-23, 30-21, 30-25 victory over Pacific Friday night in front of a crowd of 1,436. Since 2005, Poly has lost just three Big West matches and they are now 24-3 when playing in Mott Gym.
“I’m really happy for the girls. That was a tough match,” head coach Jon Stevenson said.
Outside hitter Ali Waller and middle blocker Jaclyn Houston smacked down 11 and 10 kills respectively for the Mustangs, libero Kristen Jackson posted 26 digs and Hayes punched out 55 assists. Houston also had a match-high nine blocks.
“Ali goes sort of unsung all the time,” Stevenson said of Waller. He pointed out that she had just four hitting errors in 38 attempts.
The Tigers out-killed the Mustangs 21-13 in the first game. The Mustangs were down 15-11 early on, but they gained a 22-20 lead due to Tiger attack errors. Although Poly was ahead for some time, the Tigers closed out the match with a 10-2 run.
“We came out strong but not strong enough,” Hayes said of the first game. “We just had a little more fight in us.”
After falling behind early, a 13-3 run led the Mustangs to a 22-16 lead in game No. 2. Poly kept the lead for the rest of the match and a Hayes kill tied up the game at one apiece. The Mustangs held the Tigers to a .190 hitting percentage in the set.
Poly hit .317 in game No. 3 and again fought off an early point deficit on its way to a victory as they held the Tigers to a .071 hitting percentage. Outside hitter Ashleigh Bertoni contributed five kills to the game.
Game No. 4 came and went with ease for the Mustangs as they maintained a comfortable lead throughout the set. With seven more kills in the game, Atherstone posted her second-highest, single-match kill statistic of her career with 26.
“They’re a really good team. We had to defend them properly,” Stevenson said of Pacific. He spoke of two plays the Tigers run that are difficult to defend if not studied correctly. Stevenson’s emphasis on defense came through as the Mustangs out-blocked the Tigers 30-9 in the match. He said his team’s defense got better as the match went on.
“I give them credit for making the adjustments,” he said.
Coming off the Pacific win, the Mustangs compiled their 27th Big West win in their last 30 matches with a 30-15, 28-30, 30-20, 30-15 victory over UC Davis Saturday night.
Atherstone posted 16 kills in the match and Waller and freshman middle blocker Dominique Olowolafe added 10. Hayes posted a match-high 45 assists and Houston led the pack with six blocks. In Mustang fashion, the Aggies were outblocked 21-4.
Poly takes on Cal State Fullerton in Titan Gym at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Stevenson said that of the five conference matches left, three will be played in Mott Gym.