Amidst the global pandemic, NCAA athletics shifted operations quite a bit. From holding events with no fans, limiting the rules on recruitment, to outright canceling events and seasons, college sports constantly dealt with the unprecedented during COVID-19.
While athletes at Cal Poly feel the impact of coronavirus on their seasons, high school recruits on their way to the Central Coast have had to deal with other setbacks that come about in a global health crisis.
Michael Otterstedt – Football
Michael Otterstedt is an upcoming recruit for Cal Poly Football and will be a member of the class of 2025. Originally an outside linebacker and tight end for Vacaville High School in Vacaville, California, Otterstedt spent his sophomore year on junior varsity and said he was worried about the impact of not having a senior season.
“It was a lot slower of a recruitment process, playing on JV and not varsity, but stuff worked out, I really connected with the coaches,” Otterstedt said.
Otterstedt was originally announced as a defensive recruit that signed with the Mustangs in December 2020. The recruit had a few different schools competing for his talent, including Big Sky Conference rivals Montana, UC Davis, and Weber State.
“It took two or three months of talking about it, and when Cal Poly finally gave me an offer, it was kind of last-minute but I knew it was a great option,” Otterstedt said.
One of the biggest hurdles in NCAA recruitment during COVID-19 is the inability of coaches to scout at high schools or getting official on-campus visits. Otterstedt described the recruitment process as nearly entirely digital, with constant phone calls and text messages that would go without a response for days.
“Not having an official visit is a struggle, the eye test with coaches is so crucial to being recruited,” Otterstedt said.
The future Mustang and Kinesiology student made the four-hour journey from Vacaville to San Luis Obispo to get his own tour of the school. After meeting a few of the teammates, Otterstedt said he knew Cal Poly could be a great school for him.
“It was so great to get to meet all those guys, but I didn’t expect the campus to be so big,” Otterstedt said.
When reflecting on why he picked Cal Poly and what persuaded his decision in such an unusual recruitment process, Otterstedt said he was excited to be reunited with fellow Vacaville High School alumnus, freshman defensive back Michael Briscoe. He also said he is excited to play UC Davis, due to the university’s proximity to his hometown of Vacaville.
Looking forward, Otterstedt said he is eager for what’s to come in his football career, already 10 years in the making.
“I’m excited about the new head coach,” Otterstedt said. “I’m so ready to compete, especially without a senior season. But, everything happens for a reason, so I’m going to just keep looking forward.”
Misha Berry – Women’s Tennis
Misha Berry is an upcoming recruit for Cal Poly Women’s Tennis and a 4-star recruit from Bellaire, Texas. The younger sister of breakout freshman tennis player Noah Berry, Misha will also bring her talents to the Central Coast, after being in the Girls 16s and 18s Top 10 in the state of Texas.
After seeing her brother come to Cal Poly to play for the Men’s program, Berry knew she wanted to be a Mustang too.
“I met the team and toured the school before the pandemic because of [Noah] and I just fell in love,” Berry said. “It’s beautiful there.”
When speaking about the different schools she was recruited by, Berry said she knew where she wanted to be early on.
“I told the head coach that Cal Poly would be my number one choice and that no other offer would match,” Berry said.
However, the journey to being a future Mustang was not easy for her. Berry said she had a lot of worry about whether or not schools would even be doing much recruiting of high school seniors.
“The pandemic is stressful since there was so much up in the air on whether schools will even have spots on their teams or if they’ll even have tennis teams anymore,” Berry said.
The timing of the pandemic was harmful to Berry’s recruiting process since the summer between a tennis player’s junior and senior years in high school are the most crucial for scouts to get a good look.
Over the summer, Berry went to her local tennis courts that hadn’t taken down their nets yet due to COVID-19 protocols and played games with a fellow tennis recruit. Berry’s mother, a former college player herself, filmed from a ladder, giving Berry the ability to get film out to colleges.
Cal Poly wasn’t alone in recruiting Berry, with schools like Villanova and Big West rival UC Davis also showing interest in the Texas native. When Cal Poly offered her a spot on the team, Berry said it was obvious that the team was going to be the right place for her.
“How could I want anything else?” Berry said. “Coach [Katharina Winterhalter] and the team stayed in touch with me even if I wasn’t going to commit.”
Looking forward after signing her letter of intent, Berry said she is excited about what she is joining at Cal Poly.
“Tennis can be such an individual sport, so being a part of something like this is really exciting,” Berry said.
Kaylyn Noh – Women’s Golf
Kaylyn Noh is a future member of Cal Poly Women’s Golf and a recruit from Rocklin, California. Noh’s recruitment is unique in the fact that she verbally committed to Cal Poly in January 2020, so her recruitment process was able to be done before the pandemic.
Noh, who attributes her golf success to being coached since she was five-years-old by her grandfather, started gaining recruiting attention in her freshman and sophomore years of high school.
Noh said she was eager to get the attention of Cal Poly Women’s Golf head coach Sofie Aagaard since she started her recruitment process.
“I was able to get in contact with Coach Sofie as soon as it was allowed for the class of 2021,” Noh said.
A number of universities were in contact with the golfer, including UC Davis, UC Irvine, San Francisco, and Carnegie Mellon.
“These were all great schools, but I knew that Cal Poly was the right fit for me,” Noh said.
Noh had a spectacular junior season and had most of her offers by November 2019, having a deadline of January 2020 to make a decision. When she concluded her season and made the official visit to Cal Poly, Noh said it was a done deal for her.
“I was so sure of going to Cal Poly that I actually verbally committed the day after I came back from my visit,” Noh said.
Reflecting on the pandemic, Noh said she considers herself lucky for being recruited when she was.
“At first, my parents felt that I was making a decision a little too quickly by committing in January of my junior year,” Noh said. “But seeing how everyone’s recruiting process was impacted a few months later, they couldn’t have seen it as more of a blessing.”
When thinking about why she selected Cal Poly, Noh said she knew it was the perfect blend of academics and athletic opportunity.
“Along with my academic motivation, I knew that the environment I was in would be very important and that I wanted to be at a university that would allow me to be successful later on in life,” Noh said.
“The team atmosphere was so inviting and I had never felt so comfortable around a group of people I had just met before in my life,” Noh said. “They welcomed me like I was family and I knew that surrounding myself with such great influences would truly help me enjoy my experience there.”
Noh said she is eager for the challenges ahead of her when she starts at Cal Poly in the fall.
“Everyone at Cal Poly made San Luis Obispo feel like a second home,” Noh said.