Cal Poly Volleyball’s run at the NCAA Tournament came to an end with a 3-0 defeat to No. 3 Stanford Saturday, Nov. 7 inside Maples Pavilion. Junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek had a team-high 15 kills in the defeat. Junior middle blocker Madilyn Mercer added nine kills.
The Mustangs finished the season with an overall record of 21-9 and a second-place Big West Conference record of 13-3. Cal Poly defeated Georgia 3-2 on Friday in the first round.
“[Stanford] is a really good volleyball team,” head coach Caroline Walters said. “I think they’re going to do a lot of damage as this tournament goes on. They’re just terminal in every spot. Defensively, we couldn’t catch any fire tonight.”
Stanford middle blocker Holly Cambell put the Cardinal on the board first with a kill. Stanford scored an additional two points before Dvoracek responded with the Mustangs first kill of the night. A 5-1 run by Stanford extended its lead to 10-5, forcing Cal Poly to call its first timeout of the match.
Stanford strung together a 5-2 run after the timeout to extend its lead to 15-7. Sophomore setter Avalon DeNecochea connected with Dvoracek for two kills, but Stanford kept pace to maintain its lead at 18-9. A tip by Dvoracek brought the score to 24-13 before Stanford outside hitter Kathryn Plummer produced a kill to grant Stanford a first set victory.
Plummer went on to finish with a match-high 17 kills and 10 digs.
“[Plummer] is one of the most incredible volleyball players I think this sport has ever seen,” Walters said. “Her ability to move the ball around, to hit it at angles you don’t see… the angles at which she can hit that volleyball, there’s no real tactics that can take away from it.”
Both teams traded points to open the second set until a 6-6 deadlock was broken by a 6-2 Stanford run. Cal Poly responded with a 4-1 run of their own to bring the score to 13-12, but a one point deficit was the closest Cal Poly would come to capturing the lead for the remainder of the set. An 8-1 run by Stanford capped off the second set for a 25-16 victory.
Cal Poly jumped to an early 4-2 lead in the third set behind kills from senior outside hitter Torrey Van Winden and DeNecochea. After a tie score of 8-8, Stanford broke away with a 5-2 run thanks to back-to-back kills and Cal Poly attack errors.
The Mustangs fought back from a three point deficit to equalize the score at 15-15, but Cardinal responded with a commanding 10-2 run to take the third set victory and knock Cal Poly out of the tournament.
The defeat marked the end of the season for the Mustangs.
“I think this post season shows how much growth we still have left in us and what we need to get to that next level of beating teams like Stanford,” Dvoracek said. “We get our break and we get to go home for winter, but I will bet that every single one of our returners will come back hungry. “
Cal Poly will graduate five seniors, including outside hitter Torrey Van Winden, libero Mika Dickson and outside hitter Jessica McRoskey. Dvoracek, the Mustangs’ kills leader, will return with DeNecochea and middle blockers Meredith Phillips and Mercer.
“I’m just really proud of everyone that stepped up, because we had some big shoes to fill,” Mercer said. “We did a lot of things that nobody was expecting us to do. We came a long way.”
This was also Walters’ first season as head coach for the Mustangs.
“I’m excited about the future,” Walter said. “The kids who came before got us to this point and now it’s our job to figure out how we get to the next point. I know that these guys are excited and willing to do whatever it takes to help us get there.”