With the first round of the NCAA Tournament approaching for the Cal Poly volleyball team, the Mustangs will be looking towards their most experienced players for guidance. Senior outside hitter Adlee Van Winden and senior libero Katherine Brouker will be playing in their second NCAA Tournament, leading the Mustangs against San Diego on Friday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. inside USC’s Galen Center.
“A conference title is still something that’s really unique and really special,” Van Winden said. “It’ll be on the wall and be remembered forever. I think it’s just a small token of hard work, and the best part is that it’s not our main goal. We have more goals to fulfill.”
Van Winden and Brouker are the two graduating members of this season’s record-setting volleyball team. On Nov. 19, both seniors were recognized in a pre-game ceremony to honor their accomplishments as Mustangs. Shortly after, Cal Poly (25-2, 15-1 Big West) swept Cal State Fullerton (6-24, 0-16 Big West) to clinch the Big West Conference Championship for the second year in a row.
During her freshman year, Van Winden played in all 100 sets and registered a team-high of 391 kills — the most by a Cal Poly player since Jennifer Keddy in 2011. After earning All-Big West Conference Freshman Player of the Year in 2015, Van Winden continued to dominate the court for Cal Poly by leading the team in kills the next season with a total of 366.
In Van Winden’s junior year, she was one of four players to appear in all 101 sets. Not only did she finish second on the team in both kills and service aces, but she also earned the season’s first Big West Player of the Week award and was named to the All-Big West First Team.
Brouker has also shined on the court by Van Winden’s side since their freshman season. Playing in 98 of 100 sets as a true freshman, Brouker finished fourth in the team in digs with a total of 285. Brouker would go on to lead the team in digs during her next two seasons, totaling 429 in her sophomore year and 407 her junior year. This season has been no different for Brouker, as she has already registered 421 digs as the team prepares for the NCAA Tournament.
During their last season at Cal Poly, Brouker and Van Winden have not only led the team to their second consecutive conference title, but have made history in doing so.
This season’s Mustangs recorded the best start in program history after going 19-1 in their first twenty matches — successfully surpassing the 1985 team that started 18-1. At one point, the Mustangs reached No. 11 in the national rankings before a loss to Hawai’i on Oct. 26 knocked them back to No. 17. Since the loss, the program’s six consecutive sweeps have moved the team into the No. 13 spot to conclude their regular season.
This year’s successes also highlight the legacy the Van Winden family has created at Cal Poly. Van Winden’s mother Kelly was an All-American outside hitter for the same 1985 team that first recorded the best start to Cal Poly program history. Van Winden’s sister Torrey also plays opposite Adlee for the Mustangs, as a junior opposite hitter.
“This year we had an amazing opportunity to create history and follow in our mom’s footsteps,” Adlee Van Winden said. “Cal Poly Volleyball and my family are my two biggest things in life, and they’re kind of wrapped up into one, so that’s really special. It means everything to me.”
Brouker said she shares the same pride as Van Winden when wearing the Cal Poly jersey.
“Being a part of this team has been amazing,” Brouker said. “I love each and every one of my teammates. They’re amazing women … Just being a part of something at Cal Poly and being motivated has been really cool.”
This season, the Mustangs registered 10-0 inside Mott Athletics Center, with Saturday’s title-clinching victory being the 21st consecutive win at home.
“I love Mott, it has a very special place in my heart,” Brouker said. “This morning I was getting coffee, and I stopped out in front just to look at it and admire it. I love the fans, and I love when it gets filled up. ‘Mott magic’ is definitely a thing.”
The Mustangs will have to wait until the NCAA Tournament selection show on Nov. 25 to see who and where they will play. Until then, Brouker and Van Winden will join the team in preparing for their final game, or games, as Mustangs.
“I think the biggest thing for our team right now is keeping our focus and keeping a one-track mind of what we need to do in order to get better as life happens,” Adlee Van Winden said. “With senior night, midterms and everything, I think we just need to shed light on the fact that we could make history this year.”