Once again, it is nearly impossible to imitate the same success most Cal Poly teams had in 2008-09, but 2010-11 came close.
Images of senior Rachel Clancy spotting up for a baseline jumper, Mark Rodgers running through and around tacklers and J.J. Thompson boasting hit after hit are some of the numerous images that come to mind when you think back on the 2010-11 athletic year.
However, nothing is going to come close to 2008-09. Baseball earned its first regional berth in history, and football had its best season ever and countless other teams found their strides en route to postseason berths.
But this year was a positive step in that direction.
Women’s basketball fought its way all the way to the Big West Tournament Championship game, baseball took two of three games against Cal State Fullerton — for just the second time on the past 38 years — and football was one play away from going back to the postseason.
And let’s face it, there were moments this year no one is ever going to forget.
Football: Cal Poly 35, No. 1 Montana 33
Sept. 11, 2010
Not many students got to see this game, since it came a week before the fall term started. But the few who did see this game walked away just as amazed as I was. I’ve been sports editor of the Mustang Daily for two years, and I have never seen a game unfold quite like this one.
Recall the storylines heading into the beginning of this football season. Cal Poly was coming off an abysmal year and was looking to restore the winning tradition former head coach Rich Ellerson created. Quarterback Tony Smith was the Mustang picked to help lead them there, and it brought up lots of controversy because many wanted to see heralded recruit Andre Broadous start the season under center.
But, when it was all said and done, neither helped them against No. 1 Montana. Turns out, it was third-string quarterback Doug Shumway.
Smith came out of the game in the third quarter due to an injury, and the next man up to replace him was Broadous. But Broadous, too, had an injury, which allowed Shumway to stumble onto the playing field. He instantly made his presence felt. Doing his best impersonation of Willie Beamen, Shumway connected on an 83-yard touchdown pass to running back David Mahr on his third play in the game.
“We knew that they were running their safeties at the option, so we knew at some point in the game there was going to be a shot,” Shumway said after the game. “Mahr ran right by him, we got the exact look we were looking for, got it off in time and that was it.”
The throw put the Mustangs ahead of the Grizzlies 21-20 early in the third quarter, but Shumway wasn’t done. After the Mustangs ran back an interception for a touchdown, he connected on another touchdown strike, a 25-yard lob to wide receiver Dominique Johnson in the corner of the endzone.
“Someday Shumway, that’s his nickname,” Walsh said. “We knew someday he was going to get his opportunity, and (he) took advantage of it.”
The Mustangs would need a couple of defensive plays to complete the upset, but they held on nonetheless.
It was Cal Poly’s closest remake of the classic underdog story. An unranked team, without its starting quarterback, takes down the top team in the nation with a kid who had almost no experience playing in an actual game. Shumway, after finishing 3 of 3 for 128 yards and touchdowns, became a football hero that night.
Men’s soccer: Cal Poly 2, No. 19 UCSB 1, OT
Oct. 27, 2010
Recently, the Gauchos have had Cal Poly’s number on the soccer field. As one of the best rivalries in all of college soccer, the teams have picked up steam in the last couple of years, and the Mustangs have come out on the losing end of most of those matchups.
Last season, it looked like the Gauchos would continue their dominance over the rivals. That was, until Chris Gaschen made what could very well be the biggest goal of his career. He scored during overtime against UC Santa Barbara in the second meeting between the two teams’ last season, fueling the first win over the Mustangs’ Central Coast rivals since Oct. 17, 2007.
“I actually don’t remember my foot hitting the ball or seeing the ball going into the back of the net,” Gaschen said. “I just put my head down and hit it and just knew it went in.”
It was the Mustangs second golden goal of the season, and it gave them some much-needed momentum toward the end of their season. The fans showed their appreciation by rushing the field after the win.
“I didn’t know what to expect, I was just astounded,” Gaschen said. “You turn around, and there’s 8,000 people running at you. It’s scary, but it was so sweet. It’s incredible.”
Head coach Paul Holocher joined in on the celebration as well. With the win, the golden goal and all the fans, the Mustangs’ vitctory over the Gauchos will be something Holocher will remember for a very long time.
“It’s euphoric; it was awesome,” Holocher said. “It’s great that sports can bring that much joy to people. I just wanted to run in there and kind of just jump around and hug people. … Everyone’s been working so hard, you just have to take in these moments. I look around and people are dancing on the field, and you’ve got grown men on the field hugging. It’s just a giant party at the end of the game.”
Men’s basketball: UCSB 71, Cal Poly 70
Jan. 27, 2011
I’ve watched Shawn Lewis play basketball for two seasons now, and I have come to realize that when he is feeling his shot, there is no stopping him. He showed UC Santa Barbara that much on Jan. 27, but not even his late-game heroics were enough to overthrow the eventual conference champions.
I remember glancing at the scoreboard, with it reading: UC Santa Barbara 69, Cal Poly 67 with 20 seconds left in the game. I thought the Mustangs were going to drain the clock, give the ball down low to David Hanson — who had 20 points in the game — and try to take the game into overtime.
Boy, was I wrong.
The ball touched a couple of players’ hands on the possession. After a few passes at the top of the key, Chris O’ Brien handed the ball to Lewis on the right wing, he dribbled toward the top of the key, behind the 3-point arc, and squared up.
Again, I remember thinking this couldn’t be the shot the Mustangs wanted. Lewis had 17 points up to that point, but there was still a lot of time on the clock. They could have easily wore it down a little longer and found a shot closer to the basket. I grimaced as I saw Lewis shoot the 3-pointer with a defender in front of him.
About a second later, Mott Gym exploded.
Lewis made it, putting the Mustangs ahead 70-69 with five seconds left on the clock, which was all too much time for James Nunnally and the Gauchos.
“UCSB is a very good team,” Hanson said. “We were prepared coming in, and we were able to keep it close for about 39 minutes and 55 seconds. Hats off to them.”
Although the Mustangs lost this one, it might have been one of the best Cal Poly vs. UC Santa Barbara basketball games to date. It featured a shot-for-shot pace and a very eventful final minute. It also added more blood to the water of the Blue-Green Rivalry, proving the Mustangs can step toe-to-toe with the reigning back-to-back conference champions.
In all, there were many more high points during this past athletic year than just these. And while the Mustangs didn’t come close to the successes of 2008-09, they’ve got the firepower on deck to be dominant in many sports.
With only four seniors leaving, wrestling will continue to contend for the top spot in the Pac-10. Volleyball, with the help of Jennifer Keddy, will continue their dominance in the Big West. With recruit Reese Morgan and Amaurys Fermin and Kyle Odister coming back from injuries, the men’s basketball team might have enough to dethrone Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara from atop the conference.
All around, it could be a great year, Mustangs.
— Jerome Goyhenetche contributed to this post