SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — It was sweet revenge Thursday night for the Cal Poly volleyball team. In front of a crowd of over 1,000 fans at Mott Athletics Center, the No. 22 Mustangs (6-1) took down No. 9 UCLA (4-1) 3-1 (25-21, 17-25, 25-11, 25-18) in its home opener to win its fifth match in a row and give the Bruins its first loss of the season.
With the win, Cal Poly was able to avenge last season's second round NCAA Tournament loss to the Bruins that ended its season. This is the first time the Mustangs have beat UCLA since 1985 when that team took down the Bruins 3-1 on the road and just the second time Cal Poly has ever beat UCLA.
The win also gives the Mustangs its first win over a top-10 team since 2007 when they beat No. 9 BYU 3-1.
Cal Poly has now won 12 matches in a row at Mott Athletics Center dating back to 2016.
Three Mustangs finished with 10 or more kills. Junior Torrey Van Winden led the way for with 18 kills, tied her season-high with 13 digs, had two service aces and three blocks. Senior Adlee Van Winden posted 12 kills and had a season-high 14 digs. Freshman Meredith Phillips added 10 kills while hitting .500 while fellow freshman, setter Avalon DeNecochea dished out a career-high 51 assists.
Also pacing Cal Poly was sophomore Madilyn Mercer who added eight kills and four blocks and junior Nikki Jackson who finished with a season-high five kills and a season-high six digs.
Cal Poly served the ball strong against UCLA, tallying a season-high eight service aces. Cal Poly also held the Bruins to a .179 hitting percentage for the match.
Neither team was able to separate themselves from each other for the first part of the first set. However, up 10-8, the Mustangs would use strong offensive attack and force the Bruins into errors to go on an 8-4 run to take an 18-12 lead. UCLA would rally back to eventually cut the lead to as little as two at 22-20. However, up 23-21, an error by the Bruins and a service ace by Torrey Van Winden would win the opening set for Cal Poly 25-21. For the set, Torrey finished with seven kills and six digs to pace the Mustangs.
UCLA would rebound in the second set, getting out to a 9-4 lead early on. They would hold the lead throughout the entire set. Cal Poly would cut the lead to as little as one a few times throughout the set as late as 14-15. However, from there, UCLA would score five unanswered points to take a 20-14 lead and never look back. They would go on to win the set 25-17 thanks in part to a .314 hitting percentage for the set.
Cal Poly would respond in the third with one of its most dominant sets of the season. Early on, the two teams would stay close with each other. However, up 8-7, the Mustangs would get red-hot, going on a 12-2 run to put them up 20-9. They would continue to hold down the accelerator from there, going on to win the set 25-11. In the third set alone, Cal Poly hit .432 while out-killing UCLA 18-7 and holding the Bruins to a .114 hitting percentage.
UCLA would not go away quietly though. They would start out the fourth set by getting out to a 5-1 lead. The Mustangs would then make a run of its own and tie it at 5. From there, the teams would go back-and-forth, until, tied at 16, Cal Poly would go on its most important run of the season. Thanks to three straight kills from Torrey Van Winden and an attack error by UCLA, the Mustangs would take a 20-16 lead and force a UCLA timeout. Following the timeout and Cal Poly up 22-18, a Torrey Van Winden kill followed up by an Adlee Van Winden kill and finished with a service ace by junior Mika Dickson, the Mustangs would win the set 25-18 to win the match 3-1.
The Bruins were led by Jenny Mosser, who had a team-high 13 kills and 16 digs. Madeleine Gates added 10 kills and six digs and libero Savvy Simo had a match-high 20 digs.
As a team, Cal Poly hit .250 while holding UCLA to a .179 hitting percentage.
The two teams will square-off again Friday night at Mott Athletics Center. First serve is set for 7 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Owen Main