One point here, one point there and the result could have been much different.
Despite having set points in all five games, the Cal Poly volleyball team fell at home to Cal State Fullerton 26-24, 22-25, 26-24, 17-25, 20-18 on Friday in a Big West Conference match.
After rallying from a three-point deficit to claim a set point in the first, Cal Poly (12-4, 2-1) lost the final three points and the first set.
It would become a recurring theme.
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The Mustangs ran out to an early second-set lead but allowed Cal State Fullerton back into it as Cal Poly head coach Jon Stevenson chided his team for playing “timid and scared.”
After failing to convert three set points, the Mustangs finally put away the second set.
After the match, a visibly shaken Stevenson declined The Tribune’s request for an interview saying: “I don’t feel very well right now.”
Lost in the shuffle of the disheartening loss was the dominant return of Cal Poly senior middle blocker Dominique Olowolafe.
After missing all but the first five matches of the season with a broken pinkie finger, Olowolafe made her return to the lineup in dramatic fashion, hammering home 17 kills on 29 attempts for a .448 hitting percentage.
“I can always do better,” Olowolafe said. “I always feel like there’s more that I can do for the team.
“But it felt good to be out there again. This is my senior year, so it means a lot to me.”
Still, Olowolafe was there when the team needed her most, compiling four kills and two block assists in the fifth set alone.
Yet the Mustangs couldn’t close out Cal State Fullerton (12-4, 1-1) despite four match points.
“We just need to be more aggressive regardless of the score,” Olowolafe said. “In general we seem to have trouble with not being the most aggressive team we can be.”
Cal Poly struggled all night at putting the Titans away, converting just 2 of 15 set or match points.
The Mustangs seemed on the verge of taking control of the match in the third set, leading 24-21 before losing five consecutive points to fall behind 2-1.
The match shaped up as a barometer for where the Mustangs want to be after losing all six sets to Cal State Fullerton last year.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction if we just keep working hard and keep our heads up,” Olowolafe said.
As one of just two seniors on the team, Olowolafe considers herself among the leaders but said the Mustangs know what must be done if they are to rebound tonight against defending conference champion Long Beach State.
“I think we all know what we need to do,” she said. “So in terms of talking, I think the talking should be done on the court.”