The Cal Poly volleyball team has had a historic 2018 so far, achieving the best start to a season in school history.

The Mustangs’ mantra of “execution over emotion” is in full swing, and the team is ranked No. 11 in the nation in the most recent AVCA Coaches Poll and No. 18 in the Division I Volleyball RPI.

With an overall record of 19-1, and a 9-0 record in Big West conference play, the Mustangs are on an 18-match winning streak so far. Their lone loss of the season was to No. 5 Pittsburgh. Head coach Sam Crosson is proud of how the season has gone so far.

“It’s the culmination of what we’ve been doing since I’ve been here at [Cal Poly],” Crosson said. “It’s awesome to experience it with this group … for the players that have come before [and] the players that we have this year because this is the reward that we’ve been working out for the last couple of years.”

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Video by Sawyer Milam

In addition to their current winning streak, the Mustangs have won their last 25 conference matches dating back to the 2016.

For senior outside hitter Adlee Van Winden and her sister, junior opposite hitter Torrey Van Winden, the team’s remarkable start has a distinct family connection. Their mother, Kelly (Strand) Van Winden, was a member of the 1985 team that previously held the record for best start to the season. When their mother found out that her daughters broke her record, her competitive nature came out of hiding.

“At first you could tell the competitive side of her was a little like ‘What? What do you mean?’” Adlee Van Winden said. “But then she’s like ‘well, at least you guys are doing it and it’s not somebody else,’ so she’s happy for us.”

The team’s talent has grown with the addition of talented freshmen like Avalon DeNecochea and Meredith Phillips, who have exceeded expectations so far. The Mustangs’ winning streak will need to continue if they want Mott Athletics Center to be the venue for the first round NCAA tournament match. Going undefeated in conference play is their best ticket to achieving that.

“The best thing that we can do is just to continue to improve and take each match like we have and to go week-by-week,” Crosson said. “If we are able to finish conference with an undefeated record, we’ve done the best that we can do to give us the best shot in terms of hosting. Whether we host or not is outside of our control.”

Their next step to possibly hosting a tournament match is a match against Big West Conference rival Hawai’i on Friday, Oct. 26, at 10 p.m. in Honolulu. While the Mustangs defeated the Rainbow Wahine in four sets at home earlier this season, the team will face a different challenge playing in the boisterous Stan Sheriff Center.

“Hawaii is a very unique experience,” Adlee Van Winden said. “It’s seven to eight thousand fans every time, so I think with this kind of younger group it’s gonna take us just settling in and embracing the environment and kind of just trusting our skill on our side of the net.”

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