While baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field wind down their spring seasons at Cal Poly, it can’t hurt to take a look ahead to the fall and winter sports on the horizon.
A year after finishing with the second most productive offense in the entire Football Championship Subdivision, 10 Mustangs starters return on that side of the ball in 2008, and by the looks of their schedule, they’ll need every one of them.
Bookending what Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson calls one of the toughest schedules in the country are contests at Football Bowl Subdivision foes San Diego State on Aug. 30 and Wisconsin on Nov. 22.
The 11-game slate currently includes two byes, although the athletic department is still conducting a search for a 12th opponent, which could add to the Mustangs’ playoff hopes, considering they’ll face Montana (11-1 in 2007) and McNeese State (also 11-1) in the two weeks following the San Diego trip.
Cal Poly, which finished last season 7-4 and ranked No. 24 in the Sports Network poll, compiled 487.1 yards per game to finish second in the FCS behind national champion Appalachian State’s 488.3.
That leaves most of the Mustangs’ questions on defense. On that side of the ball, Cal Poly returns just five starters from a unit that finished 62nd in the country a year ago, allowing 370.4 yards per outing.
Only libero Kristin Jackson and setter Chelsea Hayes graduated from the Mustangs squad that made its first regional postseason appearance since 1985 and lost in the Sweet 16 to top-seeded Stanford.
Prior to getting there, the two-time defending Big West Conference champion placed a program-record six players on the all-conference team and posted a 14-match winning streak, the school’s longest since 1981.
While dominating Big West play, the Mustangs set school records for Big West victories (15) and winning percentage (.938).
Two of Cal Poly’s key contributors, senior opposite Kylie Atherstone (the reigning Big West player of the year) and sophomore middle blocker Dominique Olowolafe (a Big West all-freshman team honoree), will play with the United States Women’s National A2 Team at the 2008 USA Adult Open Championships, scheduled for May 24 to 31 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
A loaded backcourt figures to set the tone for the Mustangs in 2008-09.
Senior Trae Clark and junior Lorenzo Keeler, who shared a team-high of 10.3 points per game this past season, will likely start at point and shooting guard, respectively.
Anchoring the post ought to be senior center Titus Shelton, who started 29 of 30 games while averaging 7.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per outing during Cal Poly’s 12-18 campaign last season.
A year removed from coming within a win of reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Mustangs fell in the opening round of the Big West Conference Tournament to UC Riverside, 62-54.
Both forward spots appear open.
Although they finished 13-19 in 2007-08, 11 of the Mustangs’ losses were by 10 or fewer points, including three in overtime.
In order to emerge victoriously from more close calls next season, Cal Poly will be relying largely on a talented frontcourt.
Among those returning will be senior forwards Megan Harrison and Lisa McBride, who led the Mustangs in scoring by averaging 13.3 and 9.5 points per game last year, respectively. They also posted team highs of 6.9 and six rebounds apiece.
Forwards joining them on the block will be sophomore Kristina Santiago, a Big West all-freshman team selection last year, and junior Rebecca Tratter, who was named to the All-Big West Tournament Team after averaging 14.3 points and six rebounds in the postseason.
Three key guards – Sparkle Anderson, Toni Newman and Kyla Howell, who combined for 37 starts last season – graduated and will have to be replaced.
Of the seven Mustangs whose Cal Poly careers came to a close this past season, the departure of Chad Mendes will likely be felt the most.
Mendes, an All-American and Cal Poly’s first Pac-10 Wrestler of the Year, entered the 141-pound national championship match 30-0 before being upset by Jeff Jaggers of Ohio State, 5-2.
Headlining the Mustangs’ returning grapplers will likely be junior 157-pounder Chase Pami, who finished the season ranked ninth in the country.
Only three of 33 players graduated from last year’s Mustangs, who finished 11-4-4 overall and third in the Big West at 6-2-4.
During the season, Cal Poly won 11 straight at one point, including a 3-2 victory at the expense of UC Irvine on behalf of two scores by Soccer America Freshman All-American David Zamora, and a 2-1 upset of defending national champion UCSB before a crowd of 7,143 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, shattering the program’s 11-year old attendance record of 2,694.
Five seniors will be lost from last year’s 8-9-3 Mustangs, including two All-Big West Conference Second Team selections – goalkeeper Alli Tramel and forward Sharon Day – and one all-conference honorable mention, midfielder Erica Zumbahlen.
The rest of last season’s squad, though, which went 5-2-1 in Big West play, finished 7-1-2 overall and was a game away from advancing to the NCAA College Cup, returns intact.
Men’s Cross Country
A mere two seniors graduated from 2007’s Mustangs, who took 11th at the NCAA Championships to outdo their national ranking of 22 entering the race and take second in the West Region.
One, however, was Phillip Reid, who finished 33rd overall en route to his second All-American selection in as many years.
Swimming and Diving
A cast of freshmen broke several school records at Cal Poly this past season, including Matthew Waggoner, who was named the 2008 Big West Conference Freshman of the Year.
At the conference championships, he tallied more points than any other freshman in the Big West and was its only freshman to win an event.
During the regular season, Waggoner broke Cal Poly marks in the 1,650-meter freestyle, the 1,000 and the 500.
Altogether, the men’s and women’s teams chalked up 17 Mustangs records at the conference championships, and a trio of them – Waggoner and fellow freshmen Peter Kline and Gloria Benefield – qualified provisionally for the 2008 NCAA Championships.