Frank Stranzl

Imagine jogging down Grand Avenue with a few close friends, the wind bristling through your hair and the sun shining on your glistening skin. You’ve got a light sweat going as you huff and puff your way toward Monterey Street.

“Just 10 more minutes,” your friend shouts with encouragement.

But today is anything but a typical day – as you turn right onto Monterey Street, you hear the roar of a car coming from behind. Cars are constantly passing by, but this one seems unnaturally close.

All you hear next is a colossal thud as your body is thrown into the air and then crashes to the cement. You can hear your friends’ voices, but they’re fading … along with your thoughts and sight. Everything is black.

The next image you have comes a week later, an air tube in your mouth, an IV strapped to your wrist and wires everywhere. You don’t remember what happened or why you’re laying in a hospital bed in pain.

Carol Tschasar-Daniel knows what it’s like to wake up in that hospital bed. A car struck the former Cal Poly volleyball standout while she was jogging with three friends at Dana Point, Calif. on April 8.

While much of the student body will go unaffected by her tragic story, Tschasar-Daniel remains in the hospital, her three children waiting at home and her husband at her bedside.

Now, as she and her family try to recuperate from this tragedy, Cal Poly has a chance to make a difference by packing Mott Gym for an exhibition match between UC Santa Barbara and the Mustangs. Donations will be accepted at the game to benefit Tschasar-Daniel, but that’s not the only reason to attend.

Believe it or not, there once was a time when volleyball was the big ticket in town. Thousands of fans would pack the gym to see some of the top women’s teams in the nation competing in Mott Gym.

The spirit of “The Magnificent Seven,” a nickname given to the 1985 Cal Poly squad by then local sports caster Mitch Massey, still flows within Mott Gym. That team donned the No. 1 national ranking for several weeks and electrified fans with a camaraderie and skill level well beyond most teams of those days in a time when women’s volleyball was in its infancy, Massey said.

Cal Poly coach Jon Stevenson has told me numerous stories about the passion this town had for volleyball in the 1980s. He remembers his playing days at UC Santa Barbara and on the beaches up the coast to San Luis Obispo and said that this was the place to be if you were a volleyball aficionado in those days.

He recalls the intense rivalry and respect held between the Gauchos and the Mustangs during the 1980s. Some of the best volleyball in the nation was played in Mott Gym, especially when the two schools clashed.

On Saturday, Stevenson hopes to see a revival of the storied rivalry and ardent support that has disappeared over the years – 1,176 packed the gym to see Cal Poly upset the Gauchos in Mott Gym during the 2005 season compared to the 3,000-plus that used to pack the stands in the days of “The Magnificent Seven.”

Most importantly, Stevenson sees the match as an opportunity to raise money for Tschasar-Daniel, a player who gave so much to the community and is now in need of as much support as she can garner.

So, the question is: Where will you be on Saturday at 4 p.m. when the two square off for Central Coast superiority and, more importantly, a chance to raise money for one of the best to play at Cal Poly?

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