Cal Poly Women’s Basketball starts their 2020-21 season this week on Wednesday, Nov. 25. They said they hope to build off of last year’s successes. 

“I think [the Big West Tournament] really set the standard for this season to end on such a high note,” sophomore guard Abbey Ellis said. “We know how well we can play together, and we do not want to drop below that.”

The Mustangs entered the Big West Tournament as the No. 8 seed after finishing 9-18 (6-10 Big West) last season. Despite being the lowest seed, the Mustangs defeated No. 5 seed Long Beach State 59-48 in the first round and then upset No. 3 seed UC Irvine 70-49 to advance to the semifinals. However, before their semifinal match against top-seeded UC Davis on March 13, the Big West Tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“I know we are still a little fired up from how last season ended,” senior forward Sierra Campisano said. “We are going to try to use that as fuel for our fire as we go into conference play.”

Even with the team’s added “fuel,” they will have to play in a season unlike any other — without fans in the stands.

COVID-19 regulations also restricted their preparation for this season as the team has only been able to practice together since Oct. 14. However, during the preseason and the summer, the Mustangs split up into two separate pods and worked on individual skill development.

“Having two separate pods has allowed us some great opportunities to develop skills,” Head Coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “But not necessarily having them all together until recently, we are trying to make up the time lost in that regard.”

Despite the unpredictability of a season during COVID-19, the Mustangs think they have a lot of potential to finish what they started last year. The program returned four of their five starters, added six freshmen to the team and only lost three players to graduation. In addition, the Mustangs return two of their top scorers a year ago in  Ellis and Campisano.

Ellis was selected to the Big West Conference All-Freshman Team after averaging 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.

Meanwhile, Campisano earned All-Conference First Team Honors after averaging 17.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. She netted a career-high 30 points and 13 rebounds against Long Beach State, helping the Mustangs advance past the first round of the Big West Tournament.

Last year was both Ellis and Campisano’s first season with the team which was a “learning curve,” but they both expect improvements in their second year at Cal Poly.

“It kind of felt like I was a freshman out there because I was like ‘I know what I am doing, but I don’t know what I am doing,’” Campisano said.

The Mustangs will also expect the return of sophomore guard Maddie Willett this season who redshirted last year because of hip surgery. As a freshman, Willett was selected to the Big West All-Freshman Team after averaging 6.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while ranking ninth in the conference in three-point percentage.

“[Willett] is definitely going to take our opponents by surprise,” Ellis said.

After the Mustangs finished last season by winning four of their last five games, the bar has been set higher for a team that hopes to obtain their first winning season for the past three years.

“I think we ended on such a good note and now we have added so much talent,” Ellis said. “We have a lot of potential and we know it, so we are trying to hold ourselves to a winning standard.”

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