During her first day on Cal Poly’s campus, Abbey Ellis was asked by Sierra Campisano if she wanted to get lunch together. Now, the two have an unbreakable friendship and have propelled each other to the top of the Women’s Basketball team’s scoring chart.
“We both knew from the start of the season that we had to work well with each other to be a successful team,” Ellis said. “I think we really took that to heart.”
Ellis arrived at Cal Poly as a freshman point guard from Yallambie, Australia. Campisano, a redshirt junior transfer from Oregon, connected with Ellis immediately. Since their first lunch together, the chemistry between the two took off.
“As my mom and sister were saying goodbye, my mom said that she was so grateful for [Campisano], because I guess I talked about her constantly,” Ellis said. “She was like ‘I feel so safe with you in her hands.’”
According to head coach Faith Mimnaugh, Ellis refers to Campisano as her “American mother.”
“Everyone calls me mama-bird, I am always looking after all the freshmen,” Campisano said. “But, [Ellis] is my little baby.”
Campisano spent her first two seasons with the No. 3 nationally-ranked Oregon Ducks, where she played 6.1 minutes per game over 23 appearances as a sophomore. Campisano transferred to Cal Poly as a junior after realizing Oregon was not the right fit, but had to sit out during the 2018-19 season due to eligibility rules.
“Our coaches were telling us since before [Ellis] came on campus that we were going to be super compatible and super fun,” Campisano said.
Having a go-to friend in Campisano helped Ellis transition not only into a new team, but a new country as well.
“Coming into a new team and country was pretty daunting,” Ellis said. “At the start, it was difficult and intense, but I am loving every second of it.”
Ellis established herself as an integral part of the team early in the season. The 5-foot-5 point guard scored a game-winning layup with just 1.6 seconds remaining in Cal Poly’s second win of the season — a 57-56 victory over Lamar.
😱 WHAT. A. FINISH!! 😱
— Cal Poly WBB (@CalPolyWBB) December 1, 2019
However, the game-winner was just a forewarning of what was to come. In the second week of Big West Conference play, Ellis propelled the Mustangs to a come-from-behind 75-70 victory against UC Riverside, where she recorded a career-high 37 points.
Mimnaugh, who is in her 23rd season with Cal Poly, called the performance “one of the best I’ve ever seen in a Mustang jersey.”
“If we want to talk about the ‘mamba mentality,’ that is kind of what she had that day,” Mimnaugh said. “I have had some really talented freshmen, and from a performance standpoint, her confidence in her own abilities probably exceeds those of other freshmen.”
After the comeback victory, an excited Campisano saw her boyfriend courtside and went to give him a hug.
“All of a sudden, I feel this little body around both of us,” Campisano said. “I looked down and I was like, ‘Oh! Abbey!’ And she was like, ‘Mom! Dad! We won! We need a family hug!’ That describes our relationship.”
The friends’ relationship outside the gym has led to an undeniable connection on the court, where the two players often combine to assist each other on scoring drives. While Ellis brings a fast pace to the floor, she describes 6-foot-3 Campisano as “a beast in the post.”
“We both have total trust and confidence in each other,” Campisano said. “When [Ellis] is hitting shots, I’m like, ‘Alright, where’s Abbey.’ When we’re playing together, it doesn’t really matter who has the ball, we know we’re going to make the right decision.”
The teammates’ link on the court combined with their individual skill sets has led to Ellis reaching an average of 15.7 points and 3.3 assists per game in her first season as a Mustang. Her impressive statistics are second to only one player — Campisano.
Campisano leads Cal Poly with an average of 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The San Diego native recorded a season-high 33 points in a 100-35 blowout win against Holy Names. Campisano also led the Mustangs to a 52-41 road win with 21 points against CSUN, recording her seventh double-double of the season in the process.
“Almost instinctively, they kind of know what each other is doing on the court, and I think that’s been a great benefit to the team this year,” Mimnaugh said. “It’s so authentic that you can sense that bubbling joy that is heartfelt from both of them when one succeeds. It’s almost like a sisterhood.”
Mimnaugh attributes Ellis and Campisano’s success to a strong sense of confidence within both players. While having them on the court together has left a positive impact on this season’s results, Mimnaugh holds excitement in knowing the pair will continue to grow as Mustangs next season.
“The more and more experience we have as a team, and certainly the tandem duo, the dynamic duo, I think that they make our future exciting,” Mimnaugh said.