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Cal Poly Hosts UCSB Saturday For Crucial Blue-Green Rivalry Match

Cal Poly Hosts UCSB Saturday For Crucial Blue-Green Rivalry Match

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Currently sitting tied for second place in the Big West with UC Santa Barbara, the Cal Poly volleyball team will host the Gauchos (19-3, 9-2 BW) Saturday in a critical match that could have both Big West title and NCAA Tournament implications on the line.

First serve from Mott Athletics Center is slated for 7 p.m. Links for live streaming video, audio, live stats and tickets can be found above, on the schedule, or via the GoPoly Front Row app.

The Mustangs (16-7, 9-2 BW) will be looking to take sole possession of second place in the Big West. A win over UCSB would also even the season series with the Gauchos and extend their nation's-best home winning streak to 30 matches. UCSB was the last team to beat Cal Poly at home over three years ago on Oct. 28, 2016.

The Mustangs are coming off a 3-1 loss at then No. 21 Hawai'i last Sunday. The victory for the Rainbow Wahine (20-3, 10-2 BW) means that they now control their own destiny for the conference title and automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. If both Hawai'i and Cal Poly win the rest of their matches, the teams would be co-champions. However, the Rainbow Wahine would win the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament because they would win the tiebreaker of already having swept the season series against UCSB.

Last week, junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek had one of her best weeks of the season with two outstanding individual performances on her way to earning her fourth Big West Player of the Week award this season. In the two matches against CSUN and Hawai'i, she totaled 49 kills for a stellar 7.00 kills per set average while hitting .347 and compiling 2.43 digs per set. In a sweep over the Matadors on Tuesday, she recorded a match-high 20 kills on a .531 hitting percentage to go with three aces and four digs. On Sunday, she finished with a match-high 29 kills (one shy of her career high) to go with 13 digs for her sixth double-double of the season. She hit the 20-plus kill mark for the fourth and fifth time this season and extended her streak of matches with double-digit kills to 13 straight. Through 11 conference matches this season, she is averaging 5.17 kills per set.

The Gauchos are also coming off a loss against Hawai'i last week. UCSB fell to the Rainbow Wahine in five sets, ending their four-match winning streak. They have been led this season by senior outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins. The three-time All-American is averaging a league-leading 4.60 kills per set which also ranks 17th in the nation. As a team, UCSB leads the Big West in hitting percentage, assists, and kills. Cal Poly fell to the Gauchos 1-3 when the two teams met on Oct. 19 in Santa Barbara. The Mustangs have won four of the last five matchups but UCSB leads the all-time series 50-33.

Cal Poly In the National Rankings: In the latest RPI release, Cal Poly is listed at No. 41 for the second straight week. Elsewhere in the Big West, Hawai'i is up to No. 11 while UC Santa Barbara is up to No. 26.

Mustangs Among Big West and National Leaders: Through nine weeks of the season, the Mustangs have been one of the toughest teams from the service line. Junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek is currently seventh in the nation and leads the Big West in aces with 50. As a team, Cal Poly ranks seventh in the nation and first in the Big West in aces per set at 1.87.

Currently, the Mustangs rank third in the Big West in blocks at 2.03 per set and in opponent hitting percentage at .190.

Individually, Dvoracek is second in the conference in kills per set at 4.19. Sophomore setter Avalon DeNecochea is third in assists at 9.27 per set. Defensively, sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips ranks ninth in the Big West in blocks .92 per set with junior middle blocker Madilyn Mercer behind her in 10th at .91 per set. Senior libero Mika Dickson ranks fourth in the Big West in digs per set at 3.62.

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).

Mighty Maia: Playing in her first year as a starter for Cal Poly, junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek is averaging 4.19 kills per set overall and 5.17 kills per set during conference matches this season.

She also owns the top-two individual performances this season amongst Big West players for most kills in a single match. In a five-set win over then No. 16 Utah on Sept. 14, she had a career-high 30 kills. She nearly matched that in a four-set road loss to then No. 21 Hawai'i on Nov. 3 with 29 kills.

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 29 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. 10 of their last 12 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.

Starting Strong: The Mustangs are undefeated this season when they have won the first set. In fact, 15 of Cal Poly's 16 wins this season have come when they won the opening set.

10 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).

Sophomores 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 and 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:

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.