The No. 20 Cal Poly women’s volleyball team (6-6) gave anxious fans a preview of the season ahead as they volleyed in Mott Gym for the first time this season in the premiere of the Green and Gold intersquad match Tuesday night.
“I have to root for Cal Poly, so this makes it hard,” said Jim Cole, 80, of Atascadero.
Cole, a self-proclaimed “ball boy” for Atascadero’s club volleyball team, has followed setter Chelsea Hayes and outside hitter Ashleigh Bertoni since they played for the team in high school. He now comes to every home game, wearing his green Cal Poly hat.
Prior to the match, head coach Jon Stevenson said that he designed this match for the fans. Although he has a background in professional sports, marketing and public relations, Stevenson said that this exhibition game is “a little ahead of our time,” and he wished it were better publicized, but sees it as an opportunity for some fine-tuning.
The team started practice two hours before the exhibition and Stevenson said he urged his players to throw some high-risk, high-reward serves during the match as long as their fundamentals were intact.
“This match is every bit as serious as every drill we do,” Stevenson said. “The difference is that this match is designed to give our fan base a preview.”
Stevenson follows the philosophy of Anson Dorrance, the head coach of the North Carolina women’s soccer team, called the “competitive cauldron.” In this philosophy, players are responsible and assessed for everything they do every day, and thus, all decisions for playing time are merit based.
“They have excellent coaching and great talent,” Cole said.
Stevenson said that on average, a three-set match takes about one hour and 20 minutes to complete, a four-set match takes around two hours, and a five-set match takes about two hours and 20 minutes.
During practice, the squad trains beyond the average time a match takes Stevenson said.
Stevenson believes the Green and Gold event was a good opportunity for fans to get involved.
The popularity of volleyball is growing at Cal Poly due to the team’s success last season – the women played their last two tournament games last year in front of two sold out, rowdy Mott Gym crowds.
“We have one of the best shows on campus,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson said he wished Cal Poly students realized how much his team sacrifices in order to represent the university while playing against top teams in the most competitive league of college athletics.
When asked why he enjoyed watching the team play so much, Cole said, “I like their attitudes. I like their spirit.” When asked how he thinks the team will do this season, he gave a thumbs-up with a smile.
Although Stevenson’s approach may seem quite tough he said of his team, “hopefully they always have fun playing a sport they love.”
Oh, and Cal Poly won the match.
After playing 12-consecutive away games, the Mustangs resume play at home this Friday at 7 p.m. against Big West opponent Long Beach State (6-4) in Mott Gym and on Saturday versus Cal State Northridge (3-9) at 3 p.m.