MALIBU, Calif. — The Cal Poly volleyball team earned its biggest win of the season Saturday with an incredible 3-2 revenge win over No. 16 Utah (25-19, 17-25, 18-25, 25-14, 18-16) to wrap up the Pepperdine Asics Classic in Malibu.
Cal Poly came back from down two sets to one, winning the final two sets on the way to the victory. In the fifth set, the Mustangs held off three consecutive Utah match points.
The win over the No. 16 Utes (8-2) is the third in the last two years over an AVCA Top 25 team for the Mustangs (5-4) after Cal Poly beat No. 9 UCLA twice last season.
The win also avenged a 3-2 loss to the Utes when Cal Poly faced them in Salt Lake City on Aug. 31.
Junior Maia Dvoracek had the match of her career, finishing with a match and career-high 30 kills on a whopping .414 hitting percentage. She also notched her fourth double-double of the season with 13 digs to go along with three blocks and two service aces.
Her 30 kills are the most by a Cal Poly player since Torrey Van Winden (who is currently out due to injury) finished with 30 kills in 2017 against Wichita State.
Senior libero Mika Dickson played incredible defense all night, posting a career-high 21 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Lea Ungar also played stellar defense, tying her career-high with 12 digs.
Junior outside hitter Jamie Stivers recorded her second straight double-double, finishing with 11 kills and a Cal Poly career-high 15 digs. Sophomore setter Avalon DeNecochea dished out 45 assists while also adding six kills, eight digs and two service aces. Junior middle blocker Madilyn Mercer added six kills and a season-high seven blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips also collected six kills to go along with two blocks.
As a team, Cal Poly played strong defense all night, out-digging Utah 78 to 63. The Mustangs also held the Utes to a .221 hitting percentage while they hit .244.
The first set was back-and-forth early on, with both teams only able to go on small runs. Tied at 13, Cal Poly was able to break loose by scoring four straight points to go up 17-13. Up 19-16, a 4-11 run by the Mustangs gave them a 23-17 lead they never relinquished. At 24-19, a Dvoracek kill gave Cal Poly a 1-0 set lead. In that set, the Mustangs held the Utes to a .030 hitting percentage.
Utah bounced back in the second set, getting out to a 10-5 lead to start. A 4-1 run by the Mustangs then cut the lead to 11-9. Later, with Cal Poly trailing 16-15, the Utes went on a 9-2 run to win the set 25-17.
With the Mustangs leading 4-2 in the third set, Utah went on a 7-1 run to go up 9-5. Cal Poly then responded strongly with a 7-2 run to take a 12-11 lead. However, tied at 14, the Utes used a 7-1 run to take a 21-15 lead and went on to win the set 25-18.
Needing to win the next two sets, the Mustangs came out on fire to start the fourth. They got out to a 6-2 lead and eventually extended their as much as 12-5. Utah was able to cut it to four points twice but that would be as close as they would get. Cal Poly dominated the set, never once trailing and led by as much as nine at one point. The Mustangs ended the set on a 10-3 run and went on to win it 25-14.
Heading to a deciding fifth set for the second time this season against the Utes, Cal Poly won the first two points before Utah scored two consecutive points to tie it. The Mustangs then scored two more to go up 4-2 before the Utes went on a 5-2 run to go up 7-6. The teams went back-and-forth from there, with neither team able to pull away. The set saw a total of 12 ties and six lead changes throughout. Utah had match point three times but Cal Poly held them off each time. Tied at 16, a block by DeNechochea followed up with a block by Mercer and redshirt freshman Nicole Cavote sealed the signature win for Cal Poly.
The Mustangs finished the Pepperdine Asics Classic with a 2-1 record. They have now won five of their last six matches.
Cal Poly will wrap up non-conference play next week when it goes to Colorado for the Homewood Suites UNC/CSU Volleyball Classic. There, the Mustangs will face 26th-ranked Colorado State, Northern Colorado, and Oregon State.
Photo courtesy of Alexander Bohlen | alexanderbohlen.com