SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Sophomore outside hitter Raeann Greisen (14 kills) and sophomore setter Taylor Nelson (42 assists) led Cal Poly volleyball to its eighth victory in nine matches during a four-set win (25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19) over UC Santa Barbara in the Blue-Green Rivalry on Thursday evening inside the Thunderdome.
Cal Poly sophomore middle blocker Savannah Niemen joined Greisen as one of three Mustangs to record double-figure kill totals with 12, while senior libero Nicole Kessler compiled a match-high 22 digs in the victory. Cal Poly junior middle blocker Taylor Gruenewald delivered 10 kills and four blocks for the Mustangs and Nelson secured another double-double with 15 digs.
For the first time since Nov. 6, 2010, Cal Poly defeated the Gauchos in Santa Barbara. With Thursday's victory, the Mustangs swept UC Santa Barbara in a season series for the first time since 2008.
With the victory, Cal Poly improved to 16-5 overall and 8-2 in Big West action, while UC Santa Barbara fell to 6-15 overall and 2-9 in conference play. For the second time this season, the Mustangs beat the Gauchos in four sets after entering Thursday's matchup boasting the program's best 20-match start to a season since 2010.
Heading into next week's two-match conference schedule, Cal Poly's 16-5 record through the initial 21 matches is the best start since 2006. The 8-2 start to begin conference play is the program's best since 2008.
For UC Santa Barbara, Jaylen Villanueva and Devin Joos each produced 12 kills, while Emilia Petrachi recorded 21 digs and Hannah Nielson had 24 assists.
Despite the Gauchos compiling a higher attack percentage, the Mustangs took the opening frame after falling behind 15-12. Consecutive kills by freshman outside hitter Adlee Van Winden and Greisen provided Cal Poly with a 21-18 advantage and after the Gauchos trimmed their deficit to 24-22, a Niemen kill secured the first set for Cal Poly, 25-22.
UC Santa Barbara opened the second set with a 9-7 lead, and after the Mustangs knotted the frame at 10, six ties ensued. Equal at 18 apiece, the Gauchos grabbed a 20-18 lead after a kill by Ali Barbeau, only to see the Mustangs draw within one at 21-20 after a kill by Gruenewald. Cal Poly drew even at 22 after another Gruenewald kill, and after an attack error by the Gauchos, the Mustangs took the lead at 23-22. UC Santa Barbara then received a kill by Elizabeth Sheffield and consecutive kills by Britton Taylor to salvage the second frame, 25-23.
During the third set, four ties featured the initial 22 points between the two sides, and with the score deadlocked at 11, the Mustangs secured five of the next six points (including five in a row) to collect a 16-12 lead. During Cal Poly's five straight points, the Gauchos had three attack errors and a bad set to shift the momentum back to the Mustangs. UCSB would collect the next three points to trim the Cal Poly lead to 16-15, but the Mustangs used another run to snatch a 21-15 lead. During the Mustangs' second five-point onslaught, the Gauchos had two attack errors and Greisen and Niemen each recorded a kill. Leading 24-18, another UCSB attack error supplied Cal Poly with a 25-18 third-set triumph and 2-1 match advantage.
Cal Poly jumped out to a 12-5 fourth-set lead only to see the Gauchos file the deficit down to 12-10 after a service ace by Sheffield. A kill by UCSB's Barbeau enabled the Gauchos to get within 12-11, but the Mustangs turned it on from there, recording the next four points which included a service ace from Niemen. UC Santa Barbara chiseled the deficit down to 22-19 after a kill by Taylor, but a Greisen kill, UCSB attack error and kill from senior outside hitter Hannah Schleis provided the Mustangs with a 25-19 fourth-set win and match triumph.
Schleis finished with seven kills for Cal Poly, Van Winden recorded six kills and eight digs and sophomore libero Bailey Roach had 10 digs in the four-set win.
Cal Poly continues conference action next week when hosting UC Irvine at 7 p.m. PT Friday, Oct. 6 and UC Davis at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 inside the Mott Athletics Center.