Mustangs beat Hawai’i in five-set thriller

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Updated: October 30, 2017

The last time Cal Poly volleyball was poised to win the Big West title, Hawai’i wasn’t even in the conference. This year, though, has been different. Cal Poly has been in the top-25 for a few weeks now and are still undefeated in Big West Conference play. On Friday night, they beat Hawai’i in a five-set thriller.

The Cal Poly volleyball team celebrates after beating Hawai’i for the second time this season. Photo by Owen Main

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Mustang volleyball team is in the driver’s seat with five games to play. 

With their second victory over the Rainbow Wahine, Sam Crosson’s squad now has an effective three-match lead over Hawai’i and UC Irvine with just five matches left in the regular season. 

Let’s play five

The match on Friday started ugly. Multiple service errors and errant passes on defense kept the Mustangs from getting into any kind of rhythm. Cal Poly was able to get some of that rhythm in the second set and tied the match going into the break. 

The third and fourth sets were a grind. Hawai’i stormed back from a six-point defecit late in the third to take it, but Cal Poly once again rallied in the fourth, setting up the decisive fifth set. 

In the fifth, the teams didn’t seem to have much between them, until Cal Poly took a lead late. With the score tied at 14, Cal Poly scored the 15th point. After a Hawai’i point tied the match at 15, the Mustangs won two in a row to seal the match. 

Seniors show out

Taylor Nelson had 63 assists in the match, including some Sam Crosson said were simply a force of will. 

With Hawai’i focusing on stopping the Van Winden sisters, Raeann Greisen had what might have been her best match, notching 20 kills and hitting. 306 for the match. Junior Adlee Van Winden was also very efficient with 17 kills of her own and a .372 hitting percentage. 

At middle blocker, Savannah Niemen held her own against the taller Hawai’i team, managing 11 kills. 

There will be a few more games at Mott this year, but none will be as memorable as the Hawai’i game. 

Five year plan

Five years ago, Sam Crosson took over a program in shambles. His first few years weren’t easy as the program transitioned players from the previous regime out and got his players in. The Mustangs have been at the top of the conference’s second tier of teams for the past few years, but haven’t been able to break through. 

With new coaches at Hawai’i and Long Beach State this season, along with the addition of Torrey Van Winden to Cal Poly’s already-potent lineup, this was the year for Cal Poly to assert themselves at the top of the conference. 

Barring some kind of historic meltdown, that’s just what this Cal Poly team has done.

Tournament time?

With a top-25 ranking and a conference title likely, Cal Poly will almost definitely make the NCAA tournament. While they’ve hosted a tournament game before, the Mustangs aren’t likely to this season. That’s because the tournament has “regionals,” kind of like baseball, that use a bid process. Sure, they’ll take into account the solid record the Mustangs have amassed.

But the NCAA doesn’t like to make teams travel too far in sports like volleyball and with Stanford and USC ahead of them in RPI and UCLA ahead of them in the coaches poll, it would be unlikely the Mustangs could/would outbid three California-based Pac 12 schools for the right to host. 

But I suppose anything’s possible. 

Currently Cal Poly is ranked 23rd in the coaches poll and 21st in the RPI. 

Cal Poly has just one game this week, hosting UCSB on Friday night at 7pm at Mott Athletic Center, before two games at home and two on the road in subsequent weeks to finish the season. 

 

To view or purchase photos from Friday night’s match, click here. 

If you just want to contribute to the cause, Venmo @Owen-Main or paypal owen@fansmanship.com. 

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