Mustang Daily Staff Report
“The law of the harvest.”
That’s the saying head coach Sam Crosson has preached to his team since the very beginning of the season.
And at the start of the year, Crosson knew he and the women’s volleyball squad had their work cut out for them.
Losing Jennifer Keddy — the 2011 Big West Conference Player of the Year — to a shoulder injury was not how he would have wanted his inaugural year to begin.
“It’s been a challenge,” Crosson said. “The biggest challenge that I’ve had this year is to get (the team) to understand the concept that every day in the gym is an opportunity to get better.”
In his first season as head coach, Crosson has had a few experiences with the fact that things don’t always go the way they’re planned.
“It’s been a tremendous learning opportunity,” Crosson said. “I think there are lots of areas, from a program perspective, that we improved on. The culture of our group is better now than when the season started. We’re not to the point yet where the outcome of matches is significantly more in terms of wins and losses, but it’s good to see areas where we’re spending time working on are translating to the matches.”
Cal Poly won four of the 27 matches it’s played. Until claiming its first conference match against UC Riverside, the team had sustained a 15-match losing streak.
In the match against UC Riverside, the score was tied 34 times with 21 changes in the lead. The Mustangs were able to pull out of UC Riverside’s 2-1 lead in sets to claim a 3-2 victory.
A total of 12 team blocks were made by Cal Poly which were led by junior Megan McConnell with junior Marianne Gera adding four assisted blocks.
The next day, the Mustangs sparked a two-game winning streak when they defeated Cal State Fullerton in five sets in Mott Gym. Junior outside hitter Holly Franks led the Mustangs with 14 kills while Molly Pon and Hannah Schleis each added 12. McConnell recorded a double-double with 20 digs, and the Mustangs also had four players with 10 or more digs in the match.
Franks led Cal Poly in its match against UC Irvine by recording a match-high 12 kills. The squad swept the Anteaters in three sets on Friday night at Mott Gym. The Mustangs’ victory ended a seven-match losing streak as the team improved to 4-25 overall and 3-14 in Big West matches.
Franks hit .310 in the match with her 12 kills coming from 29 attempts. McConnell recorded seven kills on the night with 15 digs and three assisted blocks. Marianne Gera added eight kills on 14 swings, and both hit .500 in the match.
As a team, the Mustangs hit .271 and held UC Irvine to a .121 percentage. The Mustangs held a slight edge in digs, 59-55, and in aces, 4-2, but dominated in kills (42-35) and blocks (7-4).
The last match of the season ended in a three set loss against Long Beach State on Saturday. Franks recorded a match-high 14 kills, but it turned out to not be enough as the Mustangs fell 25-18, 25-19, 25-21.
“If success is being based on wins and losses, it hasn’t been a very successful season,” Crosson said. “If success is being based on what our culture is like, what our group dynamic is like and what our work ethic is like, I think there are lots of areas we’ve gotten better at as the course of the season has gone on.”
Franks finished the season by recording a team-high 318 kills, and freshman libero Nicole Kessler added 331 digs.
Outside hitter Pon remains the lone senior on the team who will not return to the team for the 2013 season.
But with the loss of Pon, additions will be made, Crosson said. Keddy will most certainly help the Mustangs as she is scheduled to return at the start of the winter quarter.
“Having (Keddy) along with three incoming freshman this year, I think the skill and talent level will increase exponentially,” Crosson said. “From a personnel perspective, I think our team could look significantly better. I think the group will be one that is a little more cohesive, and we could surprise some people.”
Jefferson P. Nolan contributed to this article.