sheila sobchik

The women’s volleyball team rebounded from a crushing loss to UC Santa Barbara last Saturday to keep its playoff hopes alive, beating No. 23 Long Beach State and sweeping UC Irvine over the weekend.

Cal Poly (15-5 overall, 8-3 Big West) lost convincingly in three games at Santa Barbara last weekend, giving the Mustangs’ coach Jon Stevenson some doubts about the team’s ability to play at the national level this season.

But the Mustangs responded to Stevenson’s worries with a comeback victory at Long Beach State (17-5, 6-2) Friday night. The Mustangs lost the first two games 30-27 and 30-26, only to battle back and win the final three games 30-27, 30-21 and 18-16.

“In 36 years of volleyball, it was in the top three matches I’ve ever been a part of,” Stevenson said. “Long Beach has incredible talent, far and away the best in the conference. Nobody in the conference even comes close to them. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to win every match.”

The win gives Cal Poly a shot at the NCAA Tournament and keeps things interesting in the Big West Conference. Should Cal Poly win-out and Long Beach and Santa Barbara each lose one match, there would be a three-way tie atop the conference.

“This team has reached levels far beyond what anyone would’ve ever suspected,” Stevenson said. “They proved that they are absolutely a tournament-caliber team.”

Cal Poly had a .143 hitting percentage in game one and .114 in game two, but was much more efficient in the next three games. The Mustangs hit .279 in game three, .312 in game four and .211 in the final game. In game four, Cal Poly held the 49ers to a .023 hitting percentage.

Kylie Atherstone had her best game of the season with 20 kills on the night. Kayla Mulder chipped in with 17, Vanessa Gilliam had 16 and Jaclyn Houston finished with 12.

Long Beach State’s Ali Daley had a match-high 23 kills.

Defensively for the Mustangs, Kristin Jackson had 23 digs while Gilliam and Mulder finished with 14 apiece.

Cal Poly lost in four games to the 49ers on Oct. 1.

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