Mustang News Staff Report
[follow id = “CPMustangSports”]
Cal Poly’s sports programs’ success year to year is evident, but which programs are continuously the best and strongest overall at the end of the 2014-15 school year?
The Cal Poly football team is a part of the Football Championship Series (FCS), which makes it a Division I AA program. This distinction severely limits its potential for national recognition.
That being said, head coach Tim Walsh and his staff have created a successful program, riding the triple-option offense to wins over Montana and Montana State last season.
The emergence of quarterback Chris Brown as a solid starter was a revelation, allowing the offense to max out its potential. Brown will return for his senior season, which includes a trip to Pac-12 powerhouse Arizona State on Sept. 12.
9. Swimming and Diving
With athletes like senior Jimmy Deiparine, the Cal Poly swimming and diving team had itself a solid year. Deiparine represented the Mustangs in the NCAA Championships in Iowa, competing in the 100-meter breaststroke event.
A slew of juniors will look to pick up where Deiparine left off, continuing to make Cal Poly a strong program.
8. Men’s basketball
Despite the recent success and NCAA Tournament appearance, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team still has a lot of work to do. Head coach Joe Callero has created a strong foundation for a program on the rise, implementing a low-tempo, low-turnover offense that keeps the team within striking distance in nearly every game.
Callero’s squad has knocked off big teams in the last few years, including UCLA. His creation of a nonconference schedule that sets the Mustangs up for a poor record against some of the top teams of the nation isn’t pretty, but it allows his players to gain experience against the best players. This strategy paid off in the 2014 Big West Tournament, which led to the team’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.
Cal Poly continues to improve, and with the addition of transfers from schools such as Gonzaga, the program continues to rise.
7. Men’s golf
The Cal Poly men’s golf team’s season was highlighted by two things: sophomore Justin De Los Santos’ triumph at the Big West Tournament and the acquisition of funds via a donation from the Pineau family.
Both events allow the Mustangs to grow. De Los Santos is young and will be around for two more years, while the donation is the first step in a multistep process that will eventually fully fund the program. While it’s still a work in progress, this year was a big boost to the program.
6. Women’s basketball
The Cal Poly women’s basketball program will undergo a bit of a transition this upcoming year. It will lose Ariana Elegado, the team’s leader and leading scorer, in addition to Taryn Garza and Kristen Ale, who are all graduating.
Fortunately for the Mustangs, they have a plethora of young talent. The depth of the squad will be a strength — head coach Faith Mimnaugh regularly used 12 or so players in a game — so many of the starters last year will already have valuable experience.
5. Men’s soccer
After the weird, ill-timed resignation of former head coach Paul Holocher, the men’s soccer season appeared to be doomed before it began. Phil Ruskin, an assistant with no head coaching experience, took the reins on an interim basis. However, Ruskin led the Mustangs to a strong start, but when the injuries piled on, the 12-man rotation was worn down and Cal Poly finished the season last in the Big West North.
In early December, the program received a huge boost as Steve Sampson, former coach of the United States Men’s National Team and the Los Angeles Galaxy, signed on to take over. Sampson likely will have the big name ability to bring in top recruits, bringing the play on the field up to the same level of the atmosphere the fans and stadium provide.
4. Women’s soccer
Headlined by star forward Elise Krieghoff, the Cal Poly women’s soccer team has been a contender for a long time. Krieghoff is a goal machine and has been featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. The Mustangs had a decent year but have the potential to reach the next level.
In this upcoming year, the final for Krieghoff and goalkeeper Alyssa Giannetti, the Mustangs will need the supporting cast of players to come through and provide support. Sophomore winger Megan Abutin emerged as a force to be reckoned with, combining with Krieghoff to create the majority of Cal Poly’s chances.
If one or two more players step up and perform, this team could easily dominate the Big West.
3. Men’s tennis
One year removed from an NCAA Tournament appearance, the men’s tennis team needed to mildly regroup after All-American Andre Dome graduated.
They were up to the task, exceeding expectations and finishing the year ranked No. 52 in the nation. Sophomores Ben Donovan and Corey Pang dominated in doubles, losing just twice all year. Donovan also anchored Cal Poly in singles, holding down the No. 1 spot.
The Mustangs will lose just two seniors, with the rest of the roster consisting of underclassmen. With the next few years consisting of the exact same roster, the team can only improve with the continued development of current players and the addition of new recruits.
2. Track and Field/Cross Country
Despite being different, the two programs have enough crossover that we can’t really separate their rankings.
Head coach Mark Conover has created a positive culture with distance running at Cal Poly, as well as continuing to improve the other sections of the track and field squad. Conover’s program has produced multiple Olympians, as well as two athletes competing in the NCAA Championships at Oregon this year.
These programs are quietly and perennially some of the best Cal Poly has to offer.
Sure, it’s cliche, but the Cal Poly baseball program has become a nationally known entity. The Mustangs compete in the Big West, a conference that isn’t considered too strong for a lot of sports, but baseball is different. Cal State Fullerton is one of the top five programs in the nation, and UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and Cal Poly are nearly to that level.
Last season was a turning point, as Cal Poly hosted an NCAA Regional for the first time ever and was ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation, according to some polls.
The expectations for the 2015 season were through the roof, and Cal Poly entered the season with a top 15 national ranking, but the team failed to live up to the hype. Injuries to its best player, second baseman Mark Mathias, and slugger Brian Mundell early on left the Mustangs in a massive hole to begin the year, leaving head coach Larry Lee continuously telling people how bad his team was.
When the Mustangs entered Big West play, their injured players had returned and their play improved. Cal Poly finished fourth in the Big West, dramatically better than it fared in nonconference play.
Despite the lackluster season, improvements to Baggett Stadium and a strong final half of the season have Cal Poly primed to return to success next year.