Cal Poly turns back BeachBows in Big West Championship

LONG BEACH, Calif. – In a roller coaster of a day, the University of Hawaii beach volleyball team’s march towards a conference title fell short as Cal Poly claimed the 2021 Big West Championship on Saturday at Rosie’s Dog Beach.

After falling to the No. 3 seed Rainbow Wahine to start the day, the top-seeded Mustangs responded with three straight wins, including the final two over the BeachBows to snatch the tournament title from UH’s sight.

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The Mustangs (23-9) successfully defend their 2019 title and in the process halted UH’s run for a fourth Big West crown and first since 2018. The No. 15 BeachBows finished their season with a 17-10 overall mark with a strong push toward the end of the season. UH won 10 of its final 13 matches, highlighted a pair of wins over sixth-ranked Cal Poly. UH’s only three losses during the final stretch were against the Mustangs and another top 10 team in Arizona.

After two wins on the opening day of the tournament on Friday, UH started the second day with a bang by defeating the Mustangs, 3-2. That win advanced UH to the Big West title match for the fifth time in five appearances. But once in the finals of the double-elimination tournament, the ‘Bows couldn’t seal the deal as Cal Poly took down UH by identical 3-2 scores in back-to-back matches.

In UH’s first meeting of the day with the Mustangs, the ‘Bows took a 2-1 advantage with wins on the No. 4 and No. 5 courts and clinched the third and decisive point at the top of the order where Amber Igiede and Brooke Van Sickle took down Emily Sonny and Macy Gordon, 18-21, 21-18, 15-11. It marked Igiede and Van Sickle’s 11th straight win together.

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After Cal Poly defeated Long Beach State, 4-1, the teams would meet again with the Mustangs needing to take down Hawaii twice to claim the crown. Cal Poly was able to force a winner-take-all final matchup by pulling off a 3-2 win. The dual match was ultimately decided on the No. 3 court where Mariah Whalen and Tia Miric got by Harlee Kekauoha and Kylin Loker 21-16, 17-21, 15-11.

The final match was not nearly as dramatic as the previous two. The Mustangs took courts 2, 3 and 4 in straight sets to clinch the dual match and the tournament. With the result already in hand, UH garnered points at the top and bottom of the order to round out the scoring. Igiede and Van Sickle won in three sets, while the No. 5 pair of Anna Maidment and Sofia Russo gave UH a second point with a three-set win as well, but it was not enough. The win by Igiede and Van Sickle capped a stellar final run. The indoor crossover pair went 12-1 in their final 13 matches while playing at the No. 1 and No. 2 flights.

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