University of Georgia senior setter Meghan Donovan (22) passes the ball during their match against University of Missouri at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia, on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. The Lady Bulldogs lost to the Tigers in four sets. (Photo/Caroline Barnes)

The Georgia volleyball team lost 3-2 to Cal Poly in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday evening at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, California. This was the first NCAA tournament appearance for the Bulldogs since 2013.

The Bulldogs won the first two sets of the match, taking the early lead, but Cal Poly answered by winning three-straight sets for the reverse sweep. The match included 43 ties and 20 lead changes.

“Tonight’s match was a battle from the start,” Georgia head coach Tom Black said. “To get this experience, win or lose, is a huge step in the right direction for our program looking ahead to the future.”

The loss concludes Black’s third season with the Bulldogs after inheriting a team that went 1-17 in SEC play in 2016.

Meghan Donovan, the lone senior and a member of the 2016 squad, finished the final match of her Georgia career with 55 assists, four kills, and nine digs. Donovan led the Bulldogs in assists in all four years at Georgia, finishing this season with 1,271.

“We’ll miss our senior,” Black said. “She’s been a huge part in turning our program around. She’s a stud, and we wouldn’t have made the tournament without her.”

Freshman Kacie Evans led Georgia offensively with 23 kills, adding 11 digs on the defensive side as well.

Junior libero Kendall Glover finished just ahead of Evans in digs with 14. Sage Naves and Kianna Young led the team with five blocks apiece.

In the opening set, Georgia and Cal Poly went back-and-forth early on, with the Mustangs leading 15-14 just before the media timeout. Georgia won the final two points with a Kayla Rivera kill and a Cal Poly error to give the Bulldogs the 25-23 first set victory.

Georgia used the momentum from the previous set to open the second set with a 4-0 lead. Cal Poly later retook the lead by a score of 15-13, forcing a Georgia timeout. Still down by two later in the set, the Bulldogs secured four straight points to take the 19-17 lead. Georgia controlled the lead the rest of the second set, winning 25-22.

Evans’ only ace of the match placed the Bulldogs ahead 7-4 early in the third set. Cal Poly answered with four-straight points to obtain the one-point advantage. With Georgia later ahead 17-16, Cal Poly won four of the next five to take the 20-18 lead. The Mustangs finished the third set by winning the final four points to secure the 25-20 victory.

After an early 8-4 deficit to start the fourth set, the Bulldogs secured six straight points to acquire the 10-8 lead. Georgia held the narrow 21-20 lead later in the set, but the Mustangs finished on a 5-1 run to win the fourth set 25-22, forcing a deciding fifth set.

Cal Poly earned a three-point lead early in the fifth set and never lost control. Georgia’s Evans would use back-to-back kills to narrow the score at 13-9, but Cal Poly would win two of the next three to seal the 15-10 victory.

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