After losing in a tight battle against Cal State LA Nov. 4, Cal Poly Pomona’s volleyball team fought to keep its ranking above San Francisco and Sonoma State going into the CCAA Tournament, defeating a desperate Cal State East Bay 3-1 Nov. 10.
Both teams came out aggressive, trying to set the tone early on for the overall match, but CPP stood strong late in the game after losing a close second set 25-27. Opposite hitter Daisy Duke proved to be integral to the Broncos’ success, racking up 25 kills and tying the third-highest tally in a single match in program history.
Head coach Traci Dahl made it clear that this game was just as important for them as it was for Cal State East Bay.
“We went into it knowing there is just as much at stake for us,” said Dahl. “Yes, we clinched a spot in that tournament, but at the end of the day what place are we going to be in? And we knew East Bay was going to be hungry.”
The battle started quickly with CPP’s Duke and outside hitter Madison Novak trading off kills throughout the beginning of the first set, putting the Broncos ahead 8-3. But the Broncos’ early aggression did not stop East Bay’s outside hitter, Taumafa Tuinauvai, from taking the lead from CPP with multiple aces and making it 10-9 for the Pioneers.
With the first set coming down to the wire, setter Caitie Mueller set up Duke with multiple kills to finish off the first round 25-23.
The Pioneers turned up the heat in the second set with strong blocks, putting the Broncos on their heels with miscommunication issues and errors. Halfway through the set, the Pioneers secured an eight-point lead as the Broncos struggled to find their rhythm.
“You just can’t get down that much,” said Dahl. “That’s tough with any team like East Bay. We needed to clean up our passing, and we missed a few serves in that set.”
Just as the tide began to shift in East Bay’s favor, being up 15-7 in the second set, CPP crawled back with kills from outside hitter Samantha Campion, Duke and Novak. The trailing Broncos finally tied it up 24-24 when middle blocker Kaitlan Tucker made a huge stop in an attempted kill from the Pioneers. As both teams traded off multiple kills, Tuinauvai finally finished the second set in the Pioneers’ favor 27-25 with a well-placed ace.
Duke expressed the team’s ability to hit the reset button following the second set and come out prepared for the third.
“For us it looked like the communication just dropped in the second set,” said Duke. “Everyone just got a little shaken up, but once we were able to address what needed to be done and got on the same page for the third set, there was a huge shift.”
What may have seemed like a letdown for the Broncos turned into an opportunity to be resilient in the third set and to prove they were ready for the postseason. Duke made her presence known, placing her kills in open spots as Tucker and Campion held off attempted kills from the Pioneers, giving the Broncos a five-point 12-7 lead.
Just as the Pioneers looked to make a comeback in the third set, Campion demonstrated the Broncos’ ability to serve aggressively with three different aces on top of a series of kills from Tucker, Mueller and Novak which finished off the third set 25-15.
Tucker emphasized the mindset of the Broncos going into the game to help them stay resilient during high-pressure moments.
“We knew they were fighting to get into the tournament but were playing for a lot of things too,” said Tucker. “We have goals that we’ve talked about as a team. We knew we had to handle them and they were going to put a lot of pressure on us, but we got to respond and we did exactly that.”
The Broncos refused to take their foot off the gas, winning nine points in a row going into the fourth set as Duke’s serve put CPP at a 11-3 lead. With overwhelming attacks from both Campion and Tucker, the Pioneers were quickly on the defensive and struggling to return serves.
“When we’re on, we’re on,” said Tucker. “It’s really hard to stop us when we’re firing from everywhere.”
Cal State East Bay began to wave the white flag late in the fourth set at 20-6 when the Broncos won another series of points under defensive specialist Avery Percival’s serve. The match concluded with the Bronco heavy hitters Duke and Novak finishing off what was left of the Pioneer team that showed up fighting for a playoff spot early that afternoon.
Dahl highlighted the team’s willingness to fight as the Broncos headed into their final regular season match the next day against Cal State Monterey Bay on Nov. 11, which the team ultimately won 3-1.
“This team is always hungry,” said Dahl. “We work hard everyday at practice, and I think today we proved that now we’re ready to go to the postseason.”
The Broncos will open the post season with a match against Sonoma State this Thursday, Nov. 16. If they beat the Seawolves, CPP will face off against Cal State San Bernardino the next day for a shot at glory in the CCAA Tournament final on Saturday, Nov. 18.