Were you typing out a paper or studying at SLO Donut Company when Alex G. Spanos Stadium erupted in cheers on Oct. 27 as Chris Gaschen welcomed approximately 8,000 fans to the field after downing UC Santa Barbara with an overtime strike?
How about when third-string quarterback Doug Shumway threw two touchdown passes in the second half to defeat top-ranked Montana?
Or when Dominique Olowolafe rallied her team past the Gauchos with a mid-court speech while trailing 2 sets to 1 on the road no less?
If so, you missed the biggest games of the fall last year. With multiple programs prepping for playoff runs, a true Mustang Maniac would be committed to not repeat the same mistakes this year. So, get out your calendar and Sharpie, it is time to circle some dates.
In soccer, UCSB vs. Cal Poly is almost always a close, hard-fought match with no love lost between the two sides. All three matches in the Blue-Green Rivalry last year were decided after the clock struck 90 minutes. In fact, the last time either team won by more than a goal was in 2007.
The Big West Conference took notice of the close games, rivalry atmosphere and high attendance and moved both matches to Friday nights, the first being on Oct. 14 Alex G. Spanos Stadium, so more students from both universities could attend.
This move even got the players excited.
“If we can get 12,000 people that would be unreal,” Gaschen said. “The stadium is jam packed at 10,000, but I’m sure you could fit a couple thousand more.”
Should the matches this year play out in similar fashion, Gaschen said forwards Kyle Montgomery and Ryan Anderson are prime candidates to net the next heart-stopping Mustang goal.
“They are both fifth-year seniors who just have pace and are looking to score,” Gaschen said. “They are really hungry. This is their last year and they want to put one away every game.”
Three weeks after its initial meeting the team makes a trip to UCSB for its final regular season game, a nationally televised match at UCSB’s Harder Stadium, the site where the Mustang’s 2010 campaign was halted by the Nic Ryan’s overtime goal.
The Mustangs have not won a soccer match at the Gauchos home stadium, in more than 12 seasons.
On the hard court, the Cal Poly women’s volleyball team was dubbed by former head coach Jon Stevenson “the team of interchangeable parts”, but this is no island of misfits.
Big West Freshman of the Year Kristina Graven and AVCA All-American Jennifer Keddy lead a squad that will feature many players subbing in and out of each match.
“I think it’s definitely positive, and it pushes everyone to do their best,” Graven said. “Everyone is competing for a spot, it’s been a really good thing so far.”
Going back to 2010, the Mustangs were riding a four-game winning streak when their season ended after being “robbed,” as Stevenson put it during a press conference, of NCAA tournament bid. The Mustang will lose only two players from last year’s squad, including Olowolafe who nearly catapulted her squad into the postseason.
While their home match against the Gauchos is always highly attended, mark Oct. 22 on your calender. That match features 2010 conference champion Cal State Fullerton and gives the women a chance to break an 0-for-4 slump against the Titans.
Graven noted that a win against Fullerton would go a long way in determining the ultimate victor in the Big West, something they are intent on doing in order to assure themselves a spot in the postseason rather than leave their fate up to the committee.
On the gridiron, the Mustangs, lead by third-year head coach Tim Walsh, are looking to erase an epic collapse against rival UC Davis from the minds of fans who watched as the team destroyed its 2010 playoff hopes by squandering a 21-3 lead.
Andre Broadous, the Mustangs’ dual threat quarterback, appears to be on the verge of a breakout year in the team’s final season in the Great West Conference. In his four starts last season filling in for injured Tony Smith, Broadous threw for 510 yards and four touchdowns while making plays on his feet. He rushed for 310 yards and scored three touchdowns before a shoulder injury sidelined him as well.
“He brings a whole lot of excitement to the quarterback position for us,” Walsh said. “He’s a running back playing quarterback.”
Broadous agreed when he said he likes to run downhill, not shying away from contact, sliding or running out of bounds.
This fall the Mustangs schedule saves the best and toughest for last. In the final home game of the season on Nov. 12, Cal Poly hosts defending FCS champion Eastern Washington. A game that will, most likely, determine the Mustang’s postseason fate.
All five Cal Poly home games will happen while students are on campus, the first being on Sept. 17, when the team hosts South Dakota State.
“We just think home games at Cal Poly, there’s a lot of excitement, and I think the students can really add to that excitement by their interest and attendance,” Walsh said.
This year, they’ll use a sped-up, no-huddle style of offense popularized by the University of Oregon, but Walsh was clear that Cal Poly is still a triple-option team.
Broadous said that he feels this offense puts the Mustangs in a better position than they would have been otherwise, freeing up more passing options when playing in the shotgun.
The team also faces defending Great West champions Southern Utah at home on Oct. 15 and South Dakota on Oct. 29 in conference match-ups with one thought in mind.
“Our season goal, first and foremost, is to be the first and the last champions of the Great West,” Walsh said.
Alex Crozier leads the women’s soccer team for his 19th season in 2011. The team turned appeared to turn a corner last year after falling to 6-9-1 when they rattled off three consecutive victories to finish the year. True freshman Sara Lancaster looks like she will be a key part in the Mustangs success, as she led the team with two goals on four shots four games in the season and may end up leading the Mustangs in their hunt for the playoffs.
In men’s cross country, four out of the top five Mustang finishers at the NCAA West Regionals return in 2011 while six out of seven women will also compete for the Mustangs this season. The men won seven consecutive Big West Championships before finishing 5th in 2010. The team races in San Luis Obispo on Oct. 15 as part of the VS Athletics/Cal Poly Invitational.