Cal Poly softball is quickly becoming synonymous with the term “snub.”
Snubs are teams that have amassed resumes worthy of the NCAA tournament, but don’t make the championship field. The Mustangs will spend another off-season wondering what could’ve been after another peculiar decision by an NCAA selection committee.
“We were actually happy when we saw they took UC Santa Barbara. We thought, ‘Oh great, they’re going to take four from our conference,’” said second-year Cal Poly coach Jenny Condon.
Not so fast.
The coach and her team watched the nationally televised selection show on ESPN News without hearing Cal Poly’s name called.
Three teams from the Big West will play in the NCAA tournament – Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara – while the Mustangs, who finished in third place in conference play, were passed by.
Cal Poly (27-23, 11-7 Big West) defeated the Gauchos (24-20, 8-10) in two of three games this season. The Mustangs finished ahead of their Central Coast rivals in the Big West standings – not to mention the Gauchos had a sub .500 conference record – but that wasn’t enough to propel the Mustangs into the NCAA tournament – apparently it wasn’t enough to keep the Gauchos out of post-season, either.
Robyn Kontra, the Mustangs’ top starting pitcher, said the team’s “hearts just dropped” initially following UCSB’s selection. However, it was only halfway through the selection show when the Gauchos were announced – there was still time left.
“Once they hit the commercial break, we thought if they took UCSB then they had to take us,” Kontra said. “You don’t take the fourth-place team that we beat two-out-of-three times and not take us.”
Cal State Fullerton (36-22, 14-4) and Long Beach State (30-20, 13-5) were widely seen as locks for bids to the 64-team tournament beginning on Friday.
The 2006 snub has precedence. Last year Cal Poly finished in second place in the Big West with a 35-16 overall and 15-6 Big West records. However, the Mustangs didn’t receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament – third-place Cal State Fullerton did.
The reason: A weak strength of schedule for the Mustangs.
In reaction to the 2005 decision by the NCAA selection committee, Condon beefed up the Mustangs’ 2006 schedule.
The Mustangs played No. 1 UCLA three times, No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 5 Tennessee, No. 6 UC Berkeley, No. 23 Fresno State and played San Diego State and Notre Dame, two teams that also received votes in the latest top-25 rankings by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
UCSB also played a tough schedule with several common opponents with the Mustangs. The two clinching victories for the Gauchos may have been a 2-0 win over No. 10 Stanford and a 3-2 win over San Diego State – Cal Poly lost 9-4 to the Aztecs and didn’t have a win against any top-20 teams.
Cal Poly will lose two seniors – Chelsea Green and Teresa Miller. The team will again schedule top-caliber competition to try and impress the NCAA selection committee, Condon said.