Dan Dempster | Mustang News

No longer the underdogs: Ultimate Frisbee

Over the last three years, Cal Poly’s Ultimate Frisbee club team has grown from a mid-major squad to a national powerhouse. Led by captains Jeremy Dolezal-Ng, Caleb Merriam and Ian Sweeney, the Mustangs are looking to reach nationals for a third straight season.

“In the past, we’ve been underdogs because the culture has been building,” Dolezal-Ng said. “There’s some teams that have been [to nationals] year in and year out. We’re trying to build a program that can create a legacy. We’re trying to build a path so in the future, [the] program will be just as successful, if not more successful.”

Dolezal-Ng is confident this year it is more likely for the team to earn a playoff bid and go to nationals.

The team is coached by Kristie Merkousko, who played for the San Francisco Fury, an elite women’s team, and Cody Mills, a former Stanford ultimate frisbee coach.

After bringing in new freshmen during Fall 2017, the team was knocked out by Stanford and finished fifth in the Santa Barbara Invite, their first tournament of the year.

Over President’s Day weekend, the Mustangs bounced back and finished second in the President’s Day Invite in San Diego, which improved team morale.

“It was definitely an uplifting performance for us,” Dolezal-Ng said. “This year we showed that we were one of the top teams in the country.”

Despite the competitive culture of the team, Dolezal-Ng and the other captains make sure that there is still comradery within the team.

“Despite being so competitive, people are here to make friends and have fun,” Dozeal-Ng said. “Balancing that while trying to push each other to improve is the goal.”

“The most important thing is player development,” Dolezal-Ng said. “No matter how good the player is, they will be gone eventually. You can always develop someone who has never played before into a superstar. This program has shown it could do this.”

According to UltiWord.com (the news media site for ultimate frisbee), the Mustangs jumped seven spots after the President’s Day Invite and are currently ranked number nine in the nation amongst Division I schools.

This year, Cal Poly applied and won the bid to host regionals this year for the Southwest Division.  

A winning tradition: Women’s Club Water Polo

The Cal Poly Women’s Water Polo Club is fresh off of a second place finish at the national championships. Tara Howard | Courtesy Photo
The Cal Poly Women’s Water Polo Club is fresh off of a second place finish at the national championships. Tara Howard | Courtesy Photo

Cal Poly Club Women’s Water Polo started the season strong, following a second place run at last year’s national championship. In the first tournament of the season, the Cal Poly A-team opened conference play by going 4-0 against other Pacific Coast opponents, an impressive but unsurprising result to club president and goalkeeper Sierra Sheeper.

“We knew we had a pretty strong team this year, but it was definitely exciting,”
Sheeper said.

To Sheeper, the most exciting part of the new season is the addition of the club’s B team.

“Adding the B-team this year has allowed us to provide so [many] more opportunities for all the girls on the team,” Sheeper said.

Before, only half of the players in the club were able to travel to compete. Sheeper hopes this will help develop players, as the club looks to build off of its recent success.

The club team took first place at the national championships for three consecutive years from 2009 to 2011. However, the national championships appearance last year marked the first appearance for the club since 2013. This year, the team is looking stronger.

“We have quite a few really good incoming freshmen, a lot of girls that put in a lot of work in the off season,” Sheeper said. “Everyone came back a lot stronger.”

In the most recent ranking poll by the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Cal Poly was ranked the second best women’s club team in the nation, one point behind defending national champions UC Davis. Last May in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cal Poly lost 8-9 to UC Davis in the finals.

Cal Poly recently hosted the final regional tournament. The club’s A-team went 8-0 to claim the first seed in the Pacific Coast Division Championships, as the B-team split their season 4-4 for the fifth seed.

The A-team will start regional championship play against UC Riverside, followed by the B-team against USC Sat., April 14 at UCLA’s Spieker Aquatic Center.

A history of success: Rugby

Cal Poly Rugby Club’s season is underway as the main team sits at third place in the California Conference of the Division IA College Rugby league. The team rebounded after losing its first two matches, taking down Santa Clara and USC in the most recent league tournament.

While rugby is a relatively small sport in the U.S., senior club president Alex Wormer was introduced to the sport in high school and has not stopped playing since.

“I love free flow-ness of the game, it’s not as scripted as football,” Wormer said. “It allows for a little more creativity.”

The Cal Poly Rugby Club has a rich history, dating back to its founding in 1966. Since then, the club has made national championship appearances multiple times.

“We’ve had a history of success,” Wormer said, identifying the club’s history as an aspect that drew him to attend Cal Poly to play rugby. “When I came to school my freshman year, we were ranked sixth or seventh in the nation.”

Since then, the club has struggled as it failed to make the conference playoffs last season. However, Cal Poly Rugby continues to develop players as it welcomes new members of any skill level.

“There’s a part in the club for anyone who wants to join,” Wormer said. The club has 60 players spread out across multiple teams, including a women’s team. As a club with more than 50 years of history, Wormer noticed former players continuing to support Cal Poly Rugby.

“There are a few people that played for Cal Poly Rugby in the ‘70s that still live in [San Luis Obispo] and come out and help the club,” Wormer said. “It’s really cool having an alumni support system that’s so deep. It’s a lot of fun hear their stories, seeing what the club was like in other eras.”

Cal Poly Rugby traveled to UC Santa Barbara Sat., March 17 and are now 9-2 in 15s play after taking down the Blue-Green rival 49-3.

Cal Poly Club Roller Hockey’s Division III Gold team was ranked fifth in the nation. Brian Truong | Mustang News
Cal Poly Club Roller Hockey’s Division III Gold team was ranked fifth in the nation. Brian Truong | Mustang News

Mustangs on the rise: Roller Hockey

Cal Poly Club Roller Hockey is hunting for its first national championship title after finishing second in the western conference.

After an impressive season, the club’s Division III Gold team will represent Cal Poly at the national tournament in Fargo, ND. The team went 15-1 in the regular season of the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League, tied for first place with Arizona State University. In the finals of the regional tournament, the Mustangs faced off against the Sun Devils, who have become a closely-matched division rival.

“Those are our most lively games,” team captain and senior forward Nick Peterson said. “Those are the games that everyone looks forward to the most. You know when we’re playing each other, it’s going to be
a battle.”

The team lost 7-4 to claim second place in the conference and received a bid to the national tournament.

“Hopefully we’ll be seeing them again at nationals and have the opportunity to beat them there,” Peterson said.

The club’s Division I team entered regional as the third seed, taking down No. 2 seeded UC Santa Barbara in double overtime to face ASU’s Division I team in the finals. The Mustangs again fell short of the regional title, losing 3-2.

In the club’s 25 year history, the team has never won a national championship. The Division I team fell short of a national title in 2011, losing in the final round and finished in the top 16 last year. This season, it’s the Division III Gold team looking to bring a title to Cal Poly.

“There’s a lot of excitement, nobody on the team has actually been to nationals before,” Peterson said. “So it’s going to be a really good experience for everybody.”

Cal Poly Division III Gold team play against Bethel University, Fri. April 13 at 9 a.m. All games will be live streamed by the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association.

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