SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — After picking up one of its biggest wins of the season last weekend with a sweep over rival UCSB to take sole possession of second place in the Big West, the Cal Poly volleyball team, who has four matches remaining in the regular season, will face its final Big West road trip of the season this weekend.
The Mustangs (17-7, 10-2 BW) will take on CSUN on Friday and Long Beach State on Saturday. Both matches start at 7 p.m. with Friday's match airing live on ESPN3/WatchESPN. Links to watch and follow live stats for both matches can be found above, on the schedule page, or via the GoPoly Front Row app.
Cal Poly had one of its best and most balanced offensive performances of the season on Saturday in the sweep over the Gauchos. Five different Mustangs collected at least six kills as Cal Poly hit .391 as a team. Junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek notched her 14th consecutive match of double figure kills after she finished with a match-high 13 to go with eight digs and four service aces. Through 12 conference matches, she leads the Big West in kills in those matches with 5.12 per set. She also leads the conference in aces with 54, good for fifth most in the nation.
They also played stellar defense as a team. They out-blocked UCSB 6-1, held them to a season-low hitting percentage and held Lindsey Ruddins, the Big West leader in kills, to a season-low six kills.
The win moved Cal Poly in front of UCSB for second place in the Big West and just a match behind Hawai'i. The victory also increased the Mustangs' nation's-best home winning streak to 30 straight matches. That includes a 9-0 record at Mott this season.
The victory also propelled Cal Poly's RPI up eight spots to No. 33 to help buoy its case for an at large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The Matadors (12-13, 7-6 BW) have won four straight matches entering Friday and are tied for fourth in the Big West. As a team, they rank third in the conference in blocks at 2.04 per set and are led by Seyvion Waggoner, who is sixth in the Big West in kills with 3.46 per set. The Mustangs swept CSUN at home on Oct. 29 for their ninth consecutive win over the Matadors. Cal Poly leads the all-time series 36-25.
The Beach (10-15, 7-6 BW) is coming off two sweeps last weekend over UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton. They are currently tied for fourth in the Big West with CSUN. As a team, they rank second in the conference in kills and are led by sophomore outside hitter Kashauna Williams with 4.23 per set. On Sept. 24, the Mustangs swept Long Beach State in Mott for their fifth consecutive win over LBSU.
Cal Poly In the National Rankings: In the latest RPI release, Cal Poly moved up eight spots and is listed at No. 33. Elsewhere in the Big West, Hawai'i stayed at No. 11 while UC Santa Barbara dropped to No. 28.
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 tied for fifth in the nation and leads the Big West in aces with 54. She is also fourth in the nation in aces per set with .61. As a team, Cal Poly is sixth in the nation and first in the Big West in aces per set at 1.88.
Currently, the Mustangs rank fourth in the Big West in blocks at 2.03 per set and third in opponent hitting percentage at .189. Including only conference matches, Cal Poly holds the top spot in opponent hitting percentage (.157), is second in hitting percentage (.264), assists (12.70), and kills (13.65).
Individually, Dvoracek is third in the conference in kills per set at 4.19. Sophomore setter Avalon DeNecochea is third in assists at 9.38 per set. Defensively, sophomore middle blocker Meredith Phillips ranks seventh in the Big West in blocks .93 per set with junior middle blocker Madilyn Mercer behind her in ninth at .90 per set. Senior libero Mika Dickson ranks fifth in the Big West in digs per set at 3.61.
Including conference matches only, Dvoracek leads in kills at 5.12 per set, DeNecochea leads in assists with 10.93, and Dickson is second in digs with 4.43
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 5.12 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 30 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. 11 of their last 13 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, 16 of Cal Poly's 17 wins this season have come when they won the opening set.
11 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. 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
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.