By Christian Malone, Sept. 19, 2023
Cal Poly Pomona’s volleyball team traveled to Seaside, California for its conference opener Friday, Sept. 15 against the CSU Monterey Bay Otters, winning the match 3-1.
While the Broncos struggled to find their footing early in the game, they eventually found a way to outpace the Otters and secure the victory within four sets. Despite the difficulties early in the match, head coach Traci Dahl remains proud of the team’s ability to overcome adversity and adjust in tough situations.
“We were a little bit off in that second set tonight, but I was really proud of how they came together and how they responded to Monterey Bay taking a set off of us,” Dahl said.
The first set of the match started out neck and neck as the teams traded points until the score reached 8-8. After the prolonged stalemate, the Broncos broke through with a run of four unanswered points thanks to two kills from outside hitter Madison Novak and middle blocker Alexia Athans as well as back-to-back attacking errors from Monterey Bay.
While their lead was narrow, the Broncos held firm as they managed to stay in front by three or more points throughout the rest of the set. In the end, CPP won the opening set 25-21 with Novak, Samantha Campion and Kaitlan Tucker recording three kills each in the set.
The Otters responded by taking an early lead in the second set as the Broncos played closely behind. After a few minutes of play, the Otters led the set by three points.
Just as the Broncos looked ready to finally close the gap, their offense fell apart, giving up six points through attacking errors to eventually give the Otters a commanding 16-8 lead. While CPP put together a few scoring runs later in the set, Monterey Bay’s lead proved to be insurmountable, defeating the Broncos 25-17.
“That was just a double whammy,” Dahl said. “When you have a team that is just blasting the serve at us and then we’re making a lot of unforced errors, you’re bound to just lose the set.”
Coming off the set, Dahl said the team challenged the Otters with tougher serves, cleaned up their attacking errors and organized more intricate passes. With the adjustments, the Broncos looked rejuvenated headed into the third set.
In an echo of set one, the teams opened the third set by trading points, with neither team securing a sizable lead for much of the set. More than halfway through, with CPP leading 14-13, Dahl called a timeout to regroup the team and refocus their defense.
After the break in the action, the Broncos came back out with a renewed sense of cohesion. With their attacking errors already sorted out and defense fully entrenched, the Broncos began to dominate the match, scoring 11 points while allowing just a single kill from Monterey Bay to end the set 25-14.
Campion led the offense during this dominant run, recording eight of CPP’s 19 kills during the set including a miraculous diving dig that barely arched over the net as CPP’s first offensive breakthrough. Even with incredible solo plays under her belt, Campion still stressed how important the team’s chemistry was to the success.
“I think everyone — the defense, the offense and the center — everyone makes it really easy to just get a ball up in the air, and I just get to go for it and let it rip,” Campion said. “Coverage is a big thing because the more chances I get, the more I’m able to put the ball down.”
Fresh off their lopsided victory in set three, the Broncos continued locking down their defense and pummeling the Otters. While the set was briefly level at 5-5 early on, CPP consistently outscored the Otters for the remainder of the match, with Tucker and newcomer Sarah Ybarra recording four and five kills respectively.
Defensively, Ybarra and Athens each recorded two total blocks throughout the match while Campion and libero Avery Percival pulled off 13 and 17 digs respectively.
Campion’s 13 total digs and 18 total kills made her the only Bronco to record a double-double on the night, a feat she already managed three times last weekend during the Broncos Fall Classic.
Alongside Campion, Dahl also praised Tucker and setter Caitie Mueller who recorded 12 points and 42 assists respectively.
“Our setter, Caitie Mueller, she just ran a beautiful offense tonight,” Dahl said. “And Kaitlin Tucker, our senior — we’ve been working the middle-setter connection all week, and they really brought that to the game.”
Following the win, the Broncos drove from Seaside to Hayward, California for their second conference match against the Cal State East Bay Pioneers Saturday, Sept. 16, a contest they ultimately won 3-1. With a strong 9-1 record and two conference wins under their belt, the Broncos will now prepare for their first home game of the regular season against Cal State L.A. Friday, Sept. 22.
Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics
Feature image shows the Broncos facing Azusa Pacific University Sept. 9.
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