SALT LAKE CITY — Junior middle blocker Madilyn Mercer totaled 15 kills in the Cal Poly volleyball team's opening two matches of the 2019 season Friday but it was not enough as the No. 23 Mustangs (0-2) fell to No. 7 Kentucky 3-0 (25-21, 25-9, 25-20) and Saint Mary's 3-0 (25-13, 25-23, 25-19) to open the University of Utah Classic in Salt Lake City.
Cal Poly had to play both matches without 2018 Big West Player of the Year and AVCA All-American senior opposite hitter Torrey Van Winden due to injury.
In the opening match of the day against the No. 7 Wildcats (1-0), Cal Poly was led by Mercer and sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips, who each had a team-high seven kills in the match. Junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek finished with six kills (tied for her career-high) and six digs, senior libero Mika Dickson had a team-high 13 digs, and freshman setter Jordyn Amoy dished out a team-high 14 assists.
The first set against Kentucky was a back-and-forth battle early on. With the Wildcats up 8-7, Kentucky scored four unanswered points to take a 12-7 lead. From there, Cal Poly answered with a 5-2 run to cut the lead to 14-12. That would be as close as the Mustangs cut the lead to as the teams traded points for the rest of the set, with the Wildcats going on to win the set 25-21.
It was a different story in the second set as Kentucky opened it by getting out to a 9-1 lead. The Mustangs were not able to bounce back from that and ended up dropping the second set 25-9.
The third set started much like the first, with both teams trading points. With the score tied at 11, the Wildcats went on a 6-1 run to take a 17-12 lead. Cal Poly cut the lead to four a few times from that point but Kentucky went on to win the set 25-20.
A few hours later, Cal Poly returned to the Huntsman Center to take on Saint Mary's for both teams' second match of the day.
Against the Gaels (1-1), the Mustangs were led by Mercer's eight kills. Dvoracek finished with six kills and a career-high four service aces and sophomore setter Avalon DeNecochea had a team-high 16 assists.
Both teams traded small runs to open the first set. With Saint Mary's leading 9-8, the Gaels went on an 8-2 run to take a 17-10 lead. Cal Poly was not able to overcome that run as Saint Mary's took the set 25-13.
The second set was also close early on as neither team led by more than two through the first 30 combined points. With the Gaels leading 16-15, they went on a 4-1 run to take a 20-16 lead. The Mustangs responded with four straight points of their own to tie the score at 20 apiece. Tied at 21, Saint Mary's scored three straight points to take a 24-21 lead. Cal Poly then held off two straight set points to cut the lead to 24-23. However, a kill by the Gaels' Breyan Ashley sealed the set 25-23.
The Mustangs came out strong to begin the third set by getting out to a 6-3 lead. Saint Mary's then scored three straight points to tie it at 6-6. Tied at 10 later in the set, a 4-1 run by the Gaels gave them a 14-11 lead that they never surrendered. Cal Poly was able to cut the lead to three at 18-15 but Saint Mary's would go on to win the match with a 25-19 win in the set.
The Mustangs will wrap up the University of Utah Classic Saturday with one match. They will take on the host Utes at 4 p.m. PT. That match will be live streamed at this link.
Photo above of Madilyn Mercer courtesy of Owen Main | fansmanship.com