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First-Place Mustangs Host No. 19 Hawai’i Friday

First-Place Mustangs Host No. 19 Hawai’i Friday

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Currently tied atop the Big West standings at 5-0, the Cal Poly volleyball team will put that perfect conference record on the line this week when it faces a tough No. 19 Hawai'i team inside Mott Athletics Center.

The Mustangs (12-5, 5-0 BW) host the Rainbow Wahine (13-2, 3-1 BW) at 7 p.m. on Friday. The match is a 'whiteout match' with all fans encouraged to wear white. The first 500 fans will receive a free white Cal Poly volleyball shirt.

Links for tickets, video, audio, and live stats can be found above, on the schedule page or via the GoPoly Front Row app.

A matchup between the teams who have finished first and second in the Big West each of the last two seasons, it has quickly become one of the best rivalries in the conference. Cal Poly has defeated Hawai'i at home the past two seasons, both coming in front of sellout crowds. The Mustangs have won three of the last four meetings against the Rainbow Wahine.

Last season, Cal Poly won the first meeting of the season at home 3-1 before falling in Honolulu 3-2. Overall, Hawai'i leads the all-time series 40-7.

The Mustangs come in to the match riding a seven-match win streak. They are coming off a pair of wins last week against UC Riverside and UC Davis. On Friday, they swept the Highlanders before defeating the Aggies in five sets on Saturday.

For her efforts in those two wins, junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek won her third Big West Player of the Week award in the last four weeks. In the two victories, Dvoracek averaged 3.88 kills, 1.50 digs and 0.88 blocks per set.

In the sweep over the Highlanders, Dvoracek finished with 10 kills, seven digs, three blocks and an ace. In the win over the Aggies, she notched a match-high 21 kills to go along with five digs, four blocks and an ace. In conference matches so far this season, she is averaging 4.76 kills per set. She also ranks second in all of Division I with 44 service aces.

So far this season, Dvoracek ranks fifth in the Big West in kills per set at 3.77 and first in the conference in service aces. Elsewhere, sophomore setter Avalon DeNecochea is fourth in the conference in assists per set at 8.86. Senior libero Mika Dickson is fifth in the Big West in digs per set at 3.46 and sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips ranks sixth in the conference in blocks at 0.98 per set.

In addition to winning its last seven matches, Cal Poly has won its last 11 Big West matches and has won 27 straight matches at Mott Athletics Center, the longest active home winning streak in the country.

Currently, the Mustangs are tied for first place in the Big West with UC Santa Barbara, who is also 5-0, and will face Hawai'i on Saturday.

After starting the season 13-1 and reaching an AVCA ranking as high as No. 11, the Rainbow Wahine suffered their first conference loss of the season last week when they were upset by UC Irvine 3-2 in a reverse sweep. They bounced back the next night with a 3-2 victory over Cal State Fullerton and are now in third place in the Big West at 3-1.

Mustangs Among Big West and National Leaders: Through the first five weeks of the season, the Mustangs have been one of the toughest teams from the service line. Junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek is currently second in the nation in aces with 44. As a team, Cal Poly ranks seventh in the nation and first in the Big West in aces with 123.

Currently, the Mustangs rank third in the Big West in blocks at 2.18 per set, fourth in opponent hitting percentage at .195, and fifth in hitting percentage at .207.

Individually, Dvoracek is fifth in the conference in kills per set at 3.77. Junior middle blocker Madilyn Mercer ranks ninth in the Big West in hitting percentage at .293. Sophomore setter Avalon DeNecochea is fourth in the conference in assists at 8.86 per set. Defensively, sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips is sixth in blocks per set at 0.98 with Mercer right behind her in ninth at 0.95. Senior libero Mika Dickson ranks fifth in the Big West in digs per set at 3.46.

Cal Poly was amongst the leaders in multiple categories both in the Big West and nationally last season. The Mustangs ranked first in the Big West in hitting percentage (seventh in the nation) at .290, opponent hitting percentage (.177), kills per set (13.76), assists per set (12.88) and blocks per set (2.45).

Cal Poly Picked To Three-Peat As Big West Champion: Coming off its second consecutive Big West championship in 2018, the Mustangs were selected to three-peat in 2019 after receiving five first-place votes and a total of 77 points.

Hawai'i, who finished second last season, was picked to finish second this season. They received four first-place votes and a total of 76 points. UC Santa Barbara (59 points), UC Irvine (52 points), and Long Beach State (46 points) rounded out the rest of the top five.

In the last two seasons, Cal Poly has gone 31-1 in conference matches. This would be the first Big West three-peat in program history. Overall, the Mustangs have won the Big West five times: 1984, 2006, 2007, 2017, 2018.

Tough Non-Conference Schedule: Cal Poly had 12 matches on its non-conference schedule this season. Seven of those matches were against teams who finished inside the RPI Top 50 and made the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Mustangs ended non-conference with a 7-5 record, including a win over then No. 16 Utah.

In total, the Mustangs played four matches against teams ranked inside the AVCA Top 25.

Home Sweet Home: The Mustangs have won 27 straight home matches at Mott Athletics Center. That is the longest streak in program history and longest active streak in Division I.

Cal Poly went undefeated at home last season (10-0) for the second straight year. In 2017, they went a perfect 8-0. The Mustangs' home winning streak began Nov. 11, 2016 and they last lost at home Oct. 28, 2016 to UC Santa Barbara.

Cal Poly has been dominate at home during this stretch. Eight of their last 10 wins at Mott have come via the sweep.

The Mustangs also had the second-highest average home attendance last season amongst Division I schools in California, trailing only Stanford.

Streaking Stangs: Cal Poly is currently riding a seven-match win streak. The Mustangs have also won 11 consecutive Big West matches dating back to last season.

Starting Strong: The Mustangs are undefeated this season when they have won the first set. In fact, 11 of Cal Poly's 12 wins this season have come when they won the opening set.

Six of the Mustangs' wins have come via sweep. Five have come in five-set victories and one in four sets.

Returning Power: Although the program lost two key all-conference players to graduation, the Mustangs return 14 players from last year's team — including five starters.

Reigning Big West Player of the Year and AVCA All-American opposite hitter Torrey Van Winden returns for her senior season. Last year, Van Winden was second in the Big West and third in the nation in kills per set (5.07) and led the conference in hitting percentage (.365). Her 5.07 kills per set was the second-highest single-season average in program history. In addition, she also owns the third-spot in that category for her 2017 average of 4.83.

Junior Madilyn Mercer returns following an All-Big West First Team sophomore season. Mercer led the conference in blocks last season at 1.12 blocks per set. She had a match last season at Hawai'i that saw her total 11 block assists, just two shy of tying a program record. She was also fourth on the team in kills and 10th in the Big West in hitting percentage (.289).

Sophomore Avalon DeNecochea and Meredith Phillips come back looking to continue with the success they had in their rookie campaigns. DeNecochea was named Big West Co-Freshman of the Year (the first Mustang since 2015), All-Conference Honorable Mention and All-Freshman Team after filling the void at the setter position previously held by Taylor Nelson and directing the Cal Poly offense to the best hitting percentage in the Big West and seventh-highest in the nation at .295. DeNecochea was second in the conference in assists per set at 10.32 and was fourth on the team in both blocks and digs.

Phillips, a middle blocker, was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team and All-Conference Honorable Mention after finishing third on the team in kills and second in blocks. She also had the fifth-highest hitting percentage in the Big West at .325.

New(ish) Head Coach: In December, Cal Poly hired Caroline Walters to become the new head volleyball coach. However, Walters is no stranger to Cal Poly. This is now her 11th year with the program, having been both an assistant coach/associate head coach since 2009.

This is also not her first experience as head coach. Three matches into the 2011 season, Walters was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Mustangs On ESPN3: Cal Poly will play two road matches this season that will be aired on ESPN3. The first will be the match against UC Irvine on September 28 at 7 p.m. The other will be November 15 at 7 p.m. when the Mustangs travel to take on CSUN. Both matches can be streamed on ESPN3.com or WatchESPN.

Follow The Mustangs: Tickets are available at GoPoly.com, by calling (805) 756-4849 or by visiting the sidewalk window at the on-campus Performing Arts Center from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday.

Upcoming home matches in Mott Athletics Center feature several events and fan giveaways:

Oct. 11 (Fri., 7 p.m.) • vs. Hawai'i
High School Volleyball Night / Whiteout – The first 500 fans will receive white Cal Poly volleyball shirts.

Nov. 9 (Sat., 7 p.m.) • vs. UCSB
Blue-Green Rivalry / Alumni Night

Nov. 22 (Fri., 7 p.m.) • vs. UC Irvine
Faculty & Staff Appreciation Night: All Cal Poly instructors and staff receive free tickets.

Nov. 23 (Sat., 5 p.m.) • vs. Cal State Fullerton
Senior Night

Families are also encouraged to sign up for Mustang Kids Club ($10 per child/8th grade or under), as benefits include ongoing free admission to all regular-season soccer, volleyball, wrestling & women's basketball events along with select football, men's basketball and baseball games; plus invitations to exclusive events, birthday cards, and a T-Shirt.

Cal Poly students always get into games for free, and are also invited to join the Stang Gang. Stang Gang — Cal Poly's student fan group — features several rewards for a $10 one-time lifetime registration fee, including prizes from sponsors, a member T-Shirt, and more upon reaching point levels by checking in at games.