The No. 8 ranked Cal Poly Beach Volleyball team will play its first ever matches on the Cal Poly campus on Saturday, Feb. 29.
Cal Poly will take on No. 6 Pepperdine at 5 p.m. and No. 9 LMU at 7 p.m. at the Mustang Beach Volleyball Complex, located on the south side of Mott Athletics Center. Previously, the Mustangs played home matches at Pismo Beach.
“I’m beyond excited because we have friends, family, fans and Cal Poly students coming out,” senior Emily Sonny said. “That’ll be the first time it’s ever happened because at Pismo, people didn’t want to drive out there. It’s definitely a lot more convenient.”
Pepperdine will open its season Saturday. LMU are 2-1 so far.
“It should be a fun little duel,” head coach Todd Rogers said. “You’re talking about three teams that are going to be competing for a spot to go to the NCAAs and potentially a national championship.”
Cal Poly went 2-2 in the season-opening tournament in Tallahassee, Fla. from Feb. 22-23. The Mustangs opened the weekend with a pair of 4-1 victories of No. 13 South Carolina and Tampa. However, the team dropped a 3-2 match to No. 9 Stetson and fell 4-1 to No. 2 Florida State the next day.
“I think the opening tournament was just like a really great challenge and testimony to the fact that this team has a ton of potential and a lot more work to do,” senior Torrey Van Winden said. “And that’s always a good thing to hear. The sky is the limit for us.”
Van Winden is making her return to beach volleyball after being sidelined due to post concussion syndrome. The 2018 Beach All-American missed the entirety of Cal Poly Volleyball’s 2019 regular season before making her season debut in the NCAA Tournament.
“I definitely don’t feel like I’m at my highest level yet, but I’m just so happy to be healthy and the team is healthy for the first time in awhile,” Van Winden said.
Van Winden and Macy Gordon are 2-2 as Cal Poly’s No. 1 pairing. Van Winden is rejoining a Cal Poly team that went 25-12 last season on the way to its first ever Big West Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Anytime you have someone of that talent, that caliber, basically all boats become a little bit higher,” Rogers said. “All boats rise with the tide, because she is a No. 1 kind of talent.”
Both the No. 2 pairing junior Tia Miric and junior Maria Whalen and No. 3 pairing Sonny and Jayelin Lombard went 3-1 in the opening weekend. No. 4 Josie Ulrich and Adlee Van Winden have a 1-3 record while No. 5 Brayden Gruenewald and Vanessa Roscoe are 2-2.
The Mustang Beach Volleyball Complex is a 35,000 square-foot facility with five courts and a LED video scoreboard.
“It was kind of an eyesore [before],” Rogers said. “It wasn’t a nice spot. You had a nice pool, Doerr field, a track, tennis courts, Mott Gym. And now you kind of have this to tie all of those things in together. It was well done and I think it’s a good thing overall for Cal Poly.”
Saturday’s matches will be the first of four home events this season. The Mustangs will host Cal and Saint Mary’s March 21, Washington and Arizona March 25 at Pismo Beach and CSU Bakersfield and Santa Barbara City College April 7.
“The commitment level is so high, so for us to reap the benefits of all of this hard work has just been so amazing,” Van Winden said. “We just want to thank the donors so much because it would never have gotten done in a timely manner, let alone at all, without the money and the time that they’ve put in.”