If they made a Disney movie about a volleyball team conquering adversity, I’m convinced Cal Poly would be the featured team.
Two years ago, the program was on the verge of catastrophic meltdown. Players were quitting, the team was losing – a lot – and veteran coach Steve Schlick resigned following the season. Cal Poly volleyball, a program that boasted several legitimate national championship caliber teams in the 1980s, saw nothing but doom on the horizon.
Enter the crafty coach with an inspiring style and cue the motivational music and Rocky-like training montage.
Two years later, the Mustangs have returned to national prominence with a No. 20 ranking and the program seems to be steering a steady course towards becoming a national contender once again.
Voila: An instant Disney classic sure to rival greats such as Remember the Titans, Glory Road and Bambi – God Bless that little deer.
One thing is missing: The story doesn’t have that fairytale ending . yet. Herman Boone and the Titans finished with a perfect season and a Virginia high school state football championship; Don Haskins and Texas Western won the NCAA national championship; and Bambi, well Bambi’s accomplishments don’t quite measure up to Boone’s and Haskins’, but that deer sure did overcome hardship.
The Mustangs are a long shot to win the national championship this year, but it isn’t unreasonable to pencil Cal Poly into next season’s Final Four. Only two Mustangs are scheduled to leave due to graduation and neither are starters.
Add 6-foot-3-inch do-it-all Gabrielle Rivera, a transfer from Florida State who happens to play for the Puerto Rican Junior National team, and a national championship doesn’t seem so unrealistic.
That’s all in future. Right now the Mustangs are a successful team with several notable wins to their credit. While the rest of us were soaking up the last summer rays of sunshine in early September, Cal Poly hit the road to take on possibly the most formidable schedule in the nation.
Cal Poly has wins against No. 8 Texas and No. 15 Hawaii as well as formerly ranked Louisville. The Mustangs also nearly upended No. 23 Pepperdine and suffered losses to No. 1 Nebraska and Hawaii. The Mustangs were on the road for the first month of the season and started Big West play off in a big way with a fairly dominating win over Central Coast rival UC Santa Barbara.
Two years ago the Mustangs finished 5-25 with losses to Portland, Portland State and Southern Methodist University. Now teams in the top-10 have to give Cal Poly their respect, home or away.
If the Mustangs manage a run to the Final Four, I’ll write the screenplay and send it off to Disney.
Remember the Titans, Glory Road, Bambi and Mustang Miracles.