LOS ANGELES – Senior outside hitter Adlee Van Winden finished with a team-high 19 kills and six digs but the Cal Poly volleyball team, playing without junior Torrey Van Winden, fell to San Diego Friday night in four hard-fought sets 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Galen Center on the campus of USC, ending its record-making season.
Torrey Van Winden, the 2018 Big West Player of the Year and team-leader in kills, was unable to play due to an injury suffered in practice earlier in the week.
Freshman Meredith Phillips added nine kills, sophomore Maia Dvoracek chipped in eight kills and three blocks, senior libero Katherine Brouker had a match-high 19 digs and freshman setter Avalon DeNecochea dished out a match-high 41 assists and six digs for the No. 13 Mustangs, who finish the 2018 season with a 25-3 record.
The first set started close; with the Mustangs taking a 6-4 lead before San Diego scored back-to-back points to tie it at 6. Tied at 7, the Toreros scored three straight to take a 10-7 lead. Down 11-8, Cal Poly scored three straight points to tie it at 11. From there, both teams traded small runs to keep it close. Tied at 18, the Toreros ended the set on a 7-1 run to win it 25-19. San Diego outhit Cal Poly in the set .394 to .258.
The second set began with both teams trading points. Tied at 6, the Toreros scored went on a 6-1 run to take a 12-7 lead. San Diego later extended its lead to five at 18-13. After the Mustangs scored back-to-back points to cut the lead to three, the Toreros scored four straight to take a 22-15 lead. With San Diego leading 24-18, a kill by the Toreros won the set 25-18. For the set, San Diego hit .463 to Cal Poly's .230.
The Toreros took a 6-3 lead to begin the third set. The Mustangs then went on a 3-1 run to cut the lead to one. Tied at 10, Cal Poly took its first lead of the set after going on a 6-2 run. San Diego then scored three straight to cut the lead to 16-15. The Mustangs then responded with a 5-1 run to extend their lead to 21-16. The Toreros then cut the lead to two after a 4-1 run. Up 24-23, a kill by Meredith Phillips won the set for the Mustangs to force a fourth set.
Down 6-4 to start the fourth set, Cal Poly fought back to score six straight points to take a 10-6 lead. San Diego responded with an 8-2 run to take a 14-12 lead. After the Mustangs tied it at 14, the Toreros went on an 8-3 run to take a 22-17 lead. Cal Poly fought back with a 3-0 run to cut the lead to 22-20. After the Mustangs cut the lead to 24-22, a Torero kill finished the set 25-22 and won the match 3-1.
Despite the loss, it was still another successful season for the Mustangs. In addition to the 25-3 overall record, they won their second Big West title in a row after going 15-1 and made their second consecutive NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006-07, had the best start in program history at 19-1, and received their highest AVCA Top 25 ranking at No. 11 since 2008. The team will bring back plenty of talent next season, although it will lose two important starting seniors in Adlee Van Winden and Katherine Brouker.
Photo courtesy of Matt Brown