Broncos Stunned in NCAA Playoff Opener

Broncos Stunned in NCAA Playoff Opener
Seniors Allison Anderson (9) and Emily Kennedy cosole each other following the Broncos loss to Central Washington in the first round of the NCAA West Regional playoffs.

The Cal Poly Pomona women's volleyball team saw one of the most successful seasons in the programs history come to a sudden end Nov. 17 in the opening round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The Broncos, the No. 2 seeds in the Pacific Region, fell to No. 7 Central Washington in heartbreaking fashion, 28-30, 30-24, 23-30, 30-24, 16-14 Thursday afternoon in the Eagles Nest at Cal State L.A. Cal Poly Pomona (24-3), which was ranked ninth in the nation, held a match point in the fifth game at 14-13, but the Wildcats won the final three points to win the contest.

Central Washington (23-4), ranked 15th in the nation, advances to face No. 3 seed Cal State San Bernardino in a regional semi-final on Friday.

For the Broncos, it was a disappointing end to a wonderful season. Cal Poly Pomona captured a share of its first California Collegiate Athletic Association title since 1990 and set new program standards for highest winning percentage in the regular season, best start to a season (19-0) and longest winning streak (19).

All three losses came in five games and the Broncos led in all three matches.

Kellie Francis (Sr., Chino, Don Lugo HS) and Allison Anderson (Sr., Chino Hills, Ayala HS), who were named to the Daktronics All-Pacific Region first team earlier in the day, led the Broncos on Nov. 17 and combined for 44 kills. Francis had 23 kills and three blocks, while Anderson had 21 kills and three blocks.

The Broncos had more kills (73-60) than Central Washington, but had 15 service errors to only four service aces and outblocked at the net with the Wildcats posting 11 team blocks to six for the Broncos. Cal Poly Pomona hit at a .214 percentage to .244 for the Wildcats.

Crystal Ames had 20 kills and one block to pace the Wildcats, while Cristina Null had 10 kills and nine blocks.

Vanessa Williams (Fr., Riverside, Rubidoux HS) had 11 kills and one block for the Broncos, while Jenna Young (Fr., Arcadia, Arcadia HS) had eight kills. Emily Kennedy (Sr., Upland, Upland HS) had 59 assists and two service aces.

The Broncos won a tight first game, 30-28, but Central Washington used a big edge in blocking in the second game to even the match, 30-24. Cal Poly Pomona pulled away late in the third game to take a 2-1 edge, but the Wildcats knotted the contest at 2-2 with a 30-24 win in the fourth game.

Central Washington jumped out to an 11-7 lead in the fifth game and led 12-9 before the Broncos rallied and almost won the match. A kill by Francis, an ace by Kiting Kolar (So., La Canada, La Canada HS) and a kill by Francis knotted the frame at 12-12. Mallory Manzo (So., Fontana, Etiwanda HS) then put the Broncos ahead at 13-12 when she was able to deflect a powerful attack from Central Washington back over the net and into an open part of the court for a winner.

An attack error by Central Washington at 13-13 gave the Broncos their match point, but the Wildcats saved it on a kill by Kristin Pasley and then won the match on consecutive kills by Null and Pasley.

Kiting had a match-high 17 digs for the Broncos, while Breezie Jordan (Sr., Ventura, Buena HS) had 16. The match concluded the Bronco careers of Anderson, Francis, Jordan and Kennedy. Cal Poly Pomona was making back-to-back playoff appearances since 1996-97.

To view a gallery of photos from the game, click here.