Cal Poly Beach Volleyball’s season was abruptly cut short when the Big West Conference announced the cancellation of all spring sports on Thursday, March 12. The Mustangs were highly ranked at No. 5 in the latest AVCA poll and ended the season with a 7-2 record, including a five-game win streak before the season concluded.
“I think the majority of people were in shock and disbelief, like, is this really happening?” head coach Todd Rogers said. “I felt like we were on the move upwards. I thought there was still upside.”
The Mustangs entered the 2020 season as the No.7-ranked team after winning the Big West title last year and earning a birth to the NCAA Tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala. After getting eliminated early in the tournament last season, the Mustangs were destined to not only win back-to-back Big West titles, but a national championship as well.
“The goal was to make it to the NCAA [Tournament], make some waves and put ourselves in that position to win the thing,” Rogers said. “We really put ourselves in a good position to do that.”
The Mustangs kicked off their season with wins against No.13 South Carolina and Tampa on Saturday, Feb. 22. Both games ended in 4-1 victories. However, back-to-back losses against No. 9 Stetson and No. 2 Florida State made Rogers retool the placement of some of the pairings.
“We were not clicking the first games, to be honest,” Rogers said. “We were not at the level we wanted to be at.”
Heading into Cal Poly’s first ever set of matches in the new Mustang Beach Volleyball Complex against No. 6 Pepperdine and No. 9 Loyola Marymount, Rogers switched the No. 4 pairing of senior Adlee Van Winden and freshman Josie Ulrich with the No. 5 pairing of sophomore Vanessa Roscoe and senior Brayden Grunewald.
“It is like a puzzle,” Rogers said. “You do not know entirely what is the best puzzle fit until you compete against other teams.”
Rogers’ adjustments proved effective as the Mustangs won both home matches in narrow 3-2 victories.
“The turnout was phenomenal,” Sonny said. “I never experienced that atmosphere while playing this sport ever.”
After winning two straight matches against Top-1o teams, the Mustangs rolled through the rest of their competition. Cal Poly capped off their season with three consecutive sweeps, including a 5-0 victory against No. 7 Grand Canyon in Phoenix, Ariz.
After winning five consecutive matches and extending their record to 7-2, the program believed they could qualify for the NCAA Tournament and make a run at the national title before the season ended.
“We were so positive, thinking towards the future while being in the present,” Sonny said.
“I felt we still had upside to gain and it was not like we were peaking,” Rogers said.
While the Mustangs season was cut short, the current senior class will be granted another year of eligibility. While three seniors have already opted to graduate, Sonny said she feels “unfulfilled” with the outcome of the 2020 season and wants another chance at winning a national title.
“I want to go to Gulf Shores again. That is what I want to do,” Sonny said. “I am never satisfied ending the season unfulfilled like this. That is why I have to come back.”