SAN LUIS OBISPO— In front of the home crowd on senior day at Mott Athletics Center Saturday, the Cal Poly volleyball team swept UC Irvine (25-11, 25-20, 25-16) to win the Big West Conference Championship and secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The win gives the No. 22 Mustangs (24-2, 14-0) its first conference title since 2007, a perfect 8-0 record at home for the first time since 2007 and guarantees their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.
Sophomore Torrey Van Winden finished with a match-high 12 kills with no errors, hitting .520. Seniors Raeann Greisen and Savannah Niemen finished with seven and six kills. Senior setter Taylor Nelson orchestrated the passing game, finishing with 27 assists and a team-high seven digs. Freshman Madilyn Mercer added four kills and a team-high five blocks.
As a team, Cal Poly had eight service aces and six blocks and outhit the Anteaters (21-6, 9-5) in each of the three sets.
Following the ceremony to honor the three seniors, the Mustangs came out firing in the first set. They got out to a 11-5 lead and would have a lead as much as nine before finishing the set on a 6-0 run to win 25-11. Cal Poly hit .500 in the first set.
The second set would prove to be much closer. The teams traded points for the first half of the set. Tied at 10, UC Irvine would go on 7-3 run. The Mustangs would then go on a 5-1 run of their own to tie it at 18. Tied at 20, Cal Poly scored five straight points to win the set 25-20.
Up 8-6 in the third, the Mustangs would go on a 9-3 run to take a 17-9 lead and would not look back from there. They went on to win the set 25-16 to finish off the Anteaters and win the Big West Conference.
At 24-2 this is now the best season in program history.
"I'm so proud of this group," head coach Sam Crosson said. "I'm proud of the seniors and how they and the rest of the team has represented themselves. I couldn't be happier for them and how hard they've worked to earn the conference title."
"It's another step in the continued growth of the program," Crosson said. "It's a lot of mixed emotions. I'm very grateful and thankful to have great coaches that have helped so much."
The regular season isn't quite over yet for Cal Poly. They finish out the final two games of Big West play on the road next weekend against UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton. The game against UC Riverside on Friday will be aired on ESPN3 at 7 p.m.
Once that is over, the Mustangs will wait and see where they will be placed in the NCAA Tournament. The selection show is on Sunday, November 26 at 6 p.m. PST on ESPNU. Cal Poly will be hosting a watch party at Milestone Tavern in San Luis Obispo from 5:30-7:00 p.m. All fans are invited to attend.
"We're going to get back in the gym next week and continue to work to win these next two games and stay focused to try to win in the NCAA Tournament."