Cal Poly Beach Volleyball will begin their season as the sixth-best team in the country, according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Preseason Poll.

“There’s a level of respect there that I appreciate,” head coach Todd Rogers said. 

This is the third straight season Cal Poly has been ranked in the top 10 in the AVCA Preseason Poll. The Mustangs were ranked No. 7 in last year’s poll and No. 6 in 2019. Cal Poly finished the 2020 season that got cut short due to COVID-19 with a 7-2 record, sitting at No. 5 in the nation.

“That’s something that we’ve been consistently trying to attain here at Cal Poly in the beach volleyball program, and we’ve kind of done that over the last couple of years,” Rogers said. “It’s nice to see that we’re being recognized as one of the premier beach volleyball schools in the country.”

The Mustangs are alongside No. 5 Hawai’i and No. 16 Long Beach State as the three Big West representatives in the AVCA Preseason top 20. Cal Poly is also one of six California schools to be ranked in the top 10, trailing behind No. 2 UCLA Bruins and No. 4 USC Trojans.

In 2019, the Mustangs captured their first Big West Championship and qualified for its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. Rogers said they will look to repeat those feats and more in the 2021 season.

“Our goal every year is to win the Big West Championship, go to the NCAAs and win an NCAA Championship,” Rogers said, “We have the ability. We’re No. 6 in the country. You don’t get to that point and not at least have some form of ability to get there.”

With the NCAA allowing spring athletes an extra year of eligibility, seniors Emily Sonny and Peyton Sper will return for the new season. Sonny finished last season with a 7-1 record alongside sophomore partner Jayelin Lombard

Also returning is junior two-time AVCA All-American Tia Miric along with junior Macy Gordon, a two-time All-Big West honoree. Cal Poly also added graduate transfer Amy Ozee, who previously played for Hawai’i. Ozee was a 2019 AVCA All-American and All-Big West honoree and is fifth all-time for career dual match wins at Hawai’i.

In a season filled with uncertainty, Rogers said the Mustangs overcame several hurdles, including the strict COVID-19 regulations set in place by the university and the Big West Conference.

“It seems like the entire time we have not had our whole team there [for practice] at one point in time,” Rogers said.

Rogers added that the program has only had two positive COVID-19 cases, but they struggled with players being forced to quarantine in place, most notably with the freshman players living on campus.

COVID-19 issues aside, Rogers said that the Mustangs are ready to go and have had great practices since they were approved for full team practices on Jan. 11.

Cal Poly will begin its season on Saturday, Feb. 27 in Tallahassee, Florida at the Seminole Beach Clash when they face the University of Tampa Spartans.

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