The CSUN women’s volleyball team looked to deliver the upset of the year, as they faced off with the No. 19 ranked Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustangs at the Matadome Oct. 21.
The Matadors proved they were game, but in the end, the Mustangs had more than enough to win, as Cal Poly escaped the Matadome with a three-game sweep by scores of 30-20, 30-28 and 30-28.
“I think we started playing a lot better near the end, we just couldn’t finish it,” sophomore Kelley Hanson said.
The Mustangs’ win overshadowed the efforts of sophmore middle blocker Darla Donaldson, who smashed a team-high 18 kills. Fellow sophomore Harmony Burdine had nine kills and Hanson had 12 digs. Kylie Atherstone had 16 kills for Cal Poly and Chelsea Hayes had 46 set assists for the Mustangs.
Game one started out close. Cal Poly held no more than a two-point lead in the early stages, then with the game tied at eight, the Mustangs won the next three points to take an 11-8 lead. Senior outside hitter Hilary Brinkman broke the string with a kill off a Cal Poly block, but the Mustangs won five of the next seven sets to lead 16-11 and force a CSUN timeout. Cal Poly won two more sets, then traded points with CSUN before winning three consecutive points to take a 23-14 lead.
Donaldson broke that run with a kill off a Mustang block, but Cal Poly again won three sets in a row to lead 26-15. The Matadors, though, refused to go down without a fight, winning the next three sets to cut the lead to eight and force a Cal Poly timeout. Sophomore Val Kepler and freshman Angela Hupp denied a Mustang attack following the timeout, but an Alicia Waller kill gave possession back to Cal Poly. The Mustangs gave the ball back on a service error, but Cal Poly won the final three points to take game one.
“We really didn’t come ready to play, I don’t think in game one,” head coach Jeff Stork said. “We were kind of holding back a little bit to see what Cal Poly would do.”
Cal Poly started game two on fire, winning the first five points. Donaldson went off a Cal Poly block to get CSUN on the board, then after both teams traded the next four points, the Mustangs again ripped off three in a row to take a 10-3 lead.
CSUN started to rally, winning the next three sets, but the Mustangs won four of the next five points to restore their lead back to seven at 14-7.
CSUN again countered with three consecutive points to cut the lead to 14-10. CSUN continued to keep Cal Poly in its sight, splitting the next 12 sets, then a hitting error by Atherstone and an ace serve by Burdine cut the lead in half, but the Mustangs countered by winning four of the next five sets to take a 24-19 lead.
Donaldson, though, ignited another Matador rally with consecutive points, then, following a Mustang attack error, sophomore Kayla Wright aced on the enduing serve and Brinkman went off a Mustang block to tie the game at 24. The Mustangs’ Jaclyn Houston gave Cal Poly the lead back and Donaldson’s attack went long, giving Cal Poly a 26-24 lead, forcing a CSUN timeout. Atherstone made it a 27-24 Mustang lead, but CSUN again caught fire, as Hupp went off a Mustang block and an ace serve by sophomore Amy Hultner cut the lead to one. Donaldson tied the game following the break, but a Burdine attack error gave Cal Poly the lead back and Ashleigh Bertoni put the Mustangs at game point.
Burdine kept CSUN alive with a kill, but Bertoni slammed home the final point to give Cal Poly the win and the two-game advantage.
However, in game three, things finally started out CSUN’s way. Following a brief 2-2 tie, Matadors won four consecutive points to lead 6-2. Atherstone broke the run with a kill, but CSUN won four more sets to take a 10-3 lead and force a Mustang timeout. CSUN got one more point off an illegal backdoor attack, but Cal Poly countered with its own scoring streak, winning the next five sets to cut the lead to three and force a CSUN timeout. Cal Poly got one more point following the timeout, but Burdine went off a Mustang block and a Mustang attack error got the Matador lead to five. Both teams traded the next four points, but Cal Poly again caught fire, winning five in a row, the last two on kills by Waller, which gave the Mustangs a 16-15 lead and forced CSUN to take what would be its last timeout.
CSUN, though, won the next three points to gain the lead back. Cal Poly tied the game with consecutive points, but the Matadors won six of the next eight points to take a 24-20 lead forcing a Cal Poly time out. The Mustangs’ Katherine Hinkle broke the run with a kill, but a Burdine kill and a Mustang attack error gave CSUN a 26-21 lead. Cal Poly won the next three sets, but CSUN won the next three to take a 28-25 lead and looked to be in control, but Cal Poly made its final run, winning three in a row to tie the game at 28, and with no timeouts left to stop the momentum, CSUN could only watch as Cal Poly won the final two sets to steal the third game and come away with the sweep.
“I think we got a little ahead of ourselves,” Burdine said. “We didn’t realize that they were a god team and they were going to come back.”
CSUN’s recent struggles could also be traced to the absence of Siara Grayson, who has missed the last two games due to a shoulder and neck injury, according to Stork.
Without Grayson in the lineup, Stork has had to make adjustments in the lineup, using Brinkman, an opposite hitter, as an outside hitter and inserting Jenn Probert into the lineup, according to Stork.
“We’re still missing Siara’s attacking on the left side, that’s something that’s been hurting the team,” Stork said. “But Siara’s going to be back, she’s mending well and we would just want to make sure she’ll be here for Thursday’s game against Pacific.”
Following Thursday’s game, CSUN will close out its four-game homestand against Fresno State on Oct. 28.