A disappointing seventh-place finish in the Big West and a season filled with much adversity leaves the Cal Poly women’s volleyball team with only room for improvement as it returns the Big West’s Play of the Year along with new head coach Sam Crosson for the 2012 season.
“The goal would be to win conference,” junior Jennifer Keddy said. “Our big thing is to move on from last season. We have a new coach, a fresh start. If we all realize that we have a fresh start, it will be a big thing. Once we get used to him and everything he is teaching us, we will be good.”
A new optimistic perspective is key for the team (12-17 overall, 7-9 Big West). Signature wins over second-place UC Santa Barbara and third-place Cal State Northridge, paired with two hard fought 3-2 losses against Big West champion Long Beach State symbolize a team one step away from Big West championship contention.
“They have had time to work and train with their new coach,” former player Catie Smith said. “But it really comes down to the girls and whether they can stick together with a positive attitude. I have full confidence in them to stay optimistic and be very successful in the upcoming season.”
Heading that drive toward a Big West championship and a possible NCAA tournament berth is soon-to-be senior Jennifer Keddy.
Keddy was voted 2011 Big West Conference Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year after leading the conference with 4.06 kills per game and 509 overall points in addition to coming in second in hitting percentage and third in overall blocks.
If Keddy repeats as Big West Player of the Year, she would join the ranks of Long Beach State’s Misty May Treanor and Cal Poly’s Kylie Atherstone as a multiple-award winner.
Along with Big West Player of the Year accolades, Keddy earned 2011 AVCA All-West region honors and was an AVCA All-American Honorable Mention recipient.
Keddy most recently displayed her strength in a 3-1 victory over visiting UC Riverside. Keddy amassed 18 kills, seven digs and 20 points overall.
“The seniors coming back, Megan McConell, Chelsea Harden, Molly Pon, Holly Franks,” Keddy said. “I think we are all going to be very important. We are all extremely competitive and we all share the same motivation, we all want to do well.”
After losing Catie Smith and Lauren Law to graduation and the transfer of standout Kristina Graven to St. Mary’s, the Mustangs will have open spots to fill.
Outside hitter Molly Pon is in a position to fill the gaps. While amassing 141 kills in 74 games played, Pon had a 1.91 kills per set average.
Middle blocker Megan McConell’s .243 hitting percentage trailed only Keddy’s .339 for best on the team.
Crosson, who was hired in January, looks for the Mustangs to regain their winning ways in the 2012-13 season. He replaces interim head coach Caroline Walters who took over partway through the 2011 season in place of Jon Stevenson. Stevenson was relieved of his duties following allegations of inappropriate conduct.
“We have as good a shot as any at winning the Big West,” Crosson said. “The best part about our future and the success we can have is that it is dictated by us. It’s in our hands to go out and do the things we need to do to go out and win the conference.”
Crosson spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at UC Berkeley where, in 2010, he helped lead the Golden Bears to their best season in program history as they won a share of the PAC-10 conference title and took second place in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to his time at Berkeley, Crosson coached for Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, leading them to two consecutive 20-win seasons.
On April 4, Crosson announced the hiring of new assistant coach Olivia Simko, a UC Santa Barbara grad and AVCA All-American. Simko participated in the 2008 World University Beach Volleyball Championships where she placed 17th overall.
“The combination of the academics and location make Cal Poly a great place for recruits,” Crosson said. “The fan base, the support of the community in San Luis Obispo. The team back in ’06-07 has shown that winning the Big West can be done.”