SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Freshman Niki Withers tied a career high with 25 kills and setter Mackenzie Olsen notched her second straight double-double but Cal State Fullerton could not get over the hump as they fell to Cal Poly in four sets (27-29, 28-26, 18-25, 24-26) Saturday night in a Big West Conference match at Mott Athletics Center in San Luis Obispo.
Withers recorded her fourth 20-kill performance of the season for the Titans (7-17, 1-10) and first since Sept. 20 when she set her career high with 25 kills against Georgetown. On Saturday night against the Mustangs (9-13, 4-8), Withers hit .345, committing just five errors in 58 attempts, a new career high.
Olsen dished out 41 assists on the night for Fullerton to go along with 11 digs, notching her team-best seventh double-double of the season. Olsen also set the Titans to a .215 hitting percentage. Senior Devin Ulmer also had a career night, setting a new personal best with 17 digs to lead the team's defensive effort. Paige Reed added 12 digs and the Titans notched 70 digs as a team.
For the Mustangs, freshman Raeann Greisen set a career-high of her own, nearly matching Withers with 24 kills and a .364 hitting percentage. She also added seven digs and three blocks (one solo). Hannah Schleis added 15 kills while Taylor Nelson dished out 45 assists to go along with 15 digs.
The Titans fell behind after dropping a grueling opening set. Fullerton hit .469 as a team in the first and got five kills from Withers and Holland Crenshaw and four from Katelyn Nielsen along with 12 assists from Olsen in the frame. The Titans led 20-16 at one point in the opener but the Mustangs would cut that deficit to one after getting kills from Raeann Greisen and Casey Carroll along with a couple of Fullerton errors. The Titans responded by scoring four of the next five points to give themselves a 24-20 lead and four set points, but the Mustangs would not go quietly, fighting off the four set points to tie the set at 24. The teams would trade points until the Titans committed a pair of errors with the game tied at 27 to give the Mustangs the opening set.
Fullerton tied the match after taking another long set in the second, edging Cal Poly 28-26. The Titans led 23-19 late but the Mustangs again put together a late rally and had a set point at 24-23. But Fullerton fought it off and the teams traded points until an attacking error by Taylor Gruenewald gave the Titans a 27-26 lead and then Withers smashed her 10th kill of the second set to tie the match at a set apiece.
Cal Poly regained the lead after taking the third set thanks to a .263 hitting percentage in the frame while the Titans were in the red in that department, tallying five kills while committing nine errors in the third.
The fourth set was the closest of the night as neither team was able to build a lead bigger than two points for the entire frame. The teams were tied 17 times and traded the lead on eight occasions. Both teams hit above .300 in the fourth and combined to smash down 34 kills with just nine errors. The Titans held a 23-22 lead before Greisen and Schleis tallied consecutive kills to give the Mustangs match point. A service error tied the score but Schleis added another kill to put the Titans on the brink and then a Fullerton attacking error secured the victory for the Mustangs.
The Titans will head to UC Davis on Thursday for the third and final game of their three-game road swing before returning to Titan Gym on Saturday to face UC Riverside.
Notes: The start of the match between the Titans and Mustangs was pushed back to 7:45 p.m. after a Cal Poly wrestling match ran late at Mott Athletics Center… Crenshaw finished the match with 14 kills and a team-best .500 hitting percentage to go along with six blocks… Nielsen had 11 kills, four digs and one block on Saturday night… The match featured 44 ties and 20 lead changes… Both teams combined to commit 30 service errors in the match including 13 in the first set. Cal Poly committed 19… The Mustangs swept the season series from the Titans for the first time since 2008.