After starting out the season red-hot, winning six of their first seven games, the Aggies went into the weekend in search of their first Big West Conference win.
The Aggies are still looking.
UC Davis fell to both Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Barbara, falling to 0-4 in conference and 8-9 overall.
Friday – No. 24 Cal Poly 3, UC Davis 0
When a player has a career day at the serving line, you know you’ve got a hard road ahead of you.
Senior opposite Kylie Atherstone led the Mustangs with five aces and sophomore libero Alison Mort recorded a career-best four to take the game in three straight sets, 25-22, 25-20 and 25-11.
Cal Poly fired off season-high 12 aces in the three-set match – their highest total in over 13 months.
“Going into Big West Conference play, you already know it’s going to be tough,“ said head coach Jamie Holmes. “It’s one of the best conferences in the country. Some of the teams we’re competing against just have such great volleyball history.”
In the first match of the contest, the Aggies came back from an 8-16 deficit to go up 22-21 with only three points separating the Aggies and victory.
However, the Mustangs recorded three of the final four points of the match.
In the second set, the Aggies misfired four consecutive times to fall to an early 3-8 deficit. Aggie freshman Keala Peterson recorded two of her eight kills to move UC Davis within three, 18-21, but that would be as close as they would get.
The Mustangs charged the Aggies early on in the third set with Mort serving all four of her aces over the net. The Mustangs .290 hitting percentage for the final set was glorified by a dismal .085 clip for the Aggies.
Saturday – UCSB 3, UC Davis 0
The trip from Cal Poly to Santa Barbara is about 100 miles, but it wasn’t far enough to produce any different results.
UCSB (7-8, 3-1) smothered UC Davis in three sets, winning 25-16, 26-24, 25-11 to push the Aggies under .500 for the first time this season.
It was the Gauchos’ superior hitting that sent them over the edge – a dominating clip that read .318 to the Aggies’ .148 hitting percentage. That difference equated to a 25-point advantage in favor of Santa Barbara.
The second set was the only match in which the Aggies held more than a one-point lead, as they jumped out early to a 3-0 lead due in large part to a pair of kills by senior Chantal Paschetta. Senior Renee Ibekwe fired off the lone serving ace of the game for the Aggies, which helped them build a 9-5 lead.
Three of the 10 aces by the Gauchos came in the crucial part of this match to make up for their poor hitting percentage – which stood at .081, but the Aggies couldn’t capitalize.
The Aggies were one point from putting the game away, but four straight attack errors by UC Davis had the game gift-wrapped for the Gauchos who stood to benefit, winning 26-24.
“[We knew] those were going to be some tough matches,” Holmes said. “I kind of wish we opened up with some of the other teams, but that’s OK. That’s alright.”
The Aggies will return home to the Pavilion to host UC Riverside (5-11, 0-1) and UC Irvine (6-8, 1-0) on Saturday and Sunday.
MATT MILLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.