FRESNO, Calif. – For the first time since the 2006 season – nine years and six days to be exact – Cal Poly volleyball opened a season undefeated through three matches after a five-set win over Fresno State inside the Save Mart Center on Tuesday evening. The Mustangs began the match with 25-20 and 25-22 victories in the opening two sets, only to see the Bulldogs scratch out two straight set victories and send it to a decisive fifth. Cal Poly took control during the final set, taking an insurmountable 6-0 lead and put the finishing touches on the triumph, 15-7.
Cal Poly freshman outside hitter Adlee Van Winden surpassed her career-high with 20 kills – the most by a Mustang attacker since Raeann Greisen's 24 against Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 8, 2014 – to lead Cal Poly to its third victory on the road this season. Cal Poly junior middle blocker Taylor Gruenewald collected 12 kills (with a .233 attack percentage), sophomore outside hitter Greisen sent home 11 kills, while sophomore setter Taylor Nelson provided 44 assists, 12 digs and six kills.
Zana Bowens led Fresno State with 17 kills, while Carly Scarbrough chipped in with 11 and Brooke Lagaux tallied a match-high 47 assists. Maggie Eppright finished with 20 digs for the Bulldogs.
In the opening set, Cal Poly freshman outside hitter and Big West Freshman of the Week Van Winden secured the initial two kills for the Mustangs, but it was Fresno State who took a 6-4 advantage. Three consecutive attack errors by the Bulldogs enabled Cal Poly to take its first lead at 11-10. With Fresno State and Cal Poly exchanging back-and-forth blows, a kill by Mustang junior middle blocker Taylor Gruenewald knotted the score at 19 apiece. Consecutive kills from Gruenewald and Van Winden, coupled with another attack error by the Bulldogs gave the Mustangs a 22-19 advantage. Two more service errors and an attack error by FSU sent Cal Poly ahead for good, 25-22.
The second set began the very same way the first did – with Fresno State taking a lead, only to have Cal Poly fight back – as Van Winden collected three of the first four points for the Mustangs to open the set. A kill from Nelson and two attack errors by the Bulldogs had the set even at nine. Four ties and two lead changes later, the Mustangs were out in front, 15-13 after and attack error by FSU. Consecutive kills by Greisen provided Cal Poly a 17-15 lead, but the Bulldogs battled back to tie up the set again at 17. During the next 11 points, Van Winden sent home two more kills and another attack error gave Cal Poly a 25-20 win and 2-0 set advantage.
Fresno State was down 11-8 in the third set, then took four of the next five points to pull even with the Mustangs at 12. A kill by FSU's Zana Bowens gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the third set and Fresno State pulled away by grabbing three more consecutive points to take a 16-12 advantage. Greisen collected a kill to slice the Mustang deficit to 23-16, but it was as close as Cal Poly would get, as a kill by FSU's Lauren Torres and an attack error on Van Winden gave the Bulldogs the third set, 25-16.
The Bulldogs began the fourth set on fire, collecting 10 of the initial 14 points for a 14-10 advantage after a kill by Taylor Slover. Consecutive kills by Van Winden pulled the Mustangs to within one point of FSU at 12-11. The Big West Freshman Player of the Week continued to roll, as Van Winden sent home another kill and provided back-to-back service aces to give the Mustangs their first lead of the fourth set, 15-14. Eight ties and four lead changes later, an attack error by FSU's Bowens had the set even at 23. Another kill by Van Winden drew the Mustangs even again at 24, but it was as close as they would get. Fresno State received kills from Aleisha Coates and Torres to take the fourth, 26-24 and tie the match at two sets apiece.
In the fifth and deciding set, Cal Poly jumped out to a 6-0 advantage due to five attack and set errors by the Bulldogs and an ace by Mustang sophomore libero Bailey Roach. A kill by Van Winden, a bad set by Fresno State and service ace by Mustang freshman libero Katherine Brouker provided Cal Poly a 9-1 lead. After a Fresno State timeout, the Bulldogs managed four of the next five points. But FSU committed consecutive service and attack errors to send the momentum back to Cal Poly with a lead, 12-5. Gruenewald's kill ended two consecutive points by the Bulldogs and after another attack error by FSU's Slover, Cal Poly snatched the fifth set, 15-7 and the five-set match victory.
Tuesday's matchup featured 38 ties throughout the five sets, including 23 during the opening two frames. There were 12 lead changes between the two sides, which included seven during sets one and two.
Cal Poly boasted attack percentages of .231 in the first set, .286 in the second and .258 in the fourth. The Mustangs have either been tied or losing in all three matches this season, only to fight back and claim victory.
Cal Poly (3-0) continues its nine-match venture away from the Mott Athletics Center to begin the season with three matches in Waco, Texas at the Hampton Inn Waco North Baylor Invitational this weekend. The Mustangs open against Coppin State at 5 p.m. Friday, and battle both Sam Houston State (10:30 a.m.) and Baylor (5 p.m.) Saturday.