Throughout the 2018-2019 season, Cal Poly Athletics experienced many firsts, and for some, many lasts. Whether it was the Volleyball team taking home back-to-back Big West titles, or the Men’s Basketball team narrowly out-performing their worst season of all time, triumphs and failures were experienced to the highest-level. 

While some fans expect sport and competition to be filled with victory and defeat, others shudder at the idea of riding another roller-coaster of emotion in 2019-2020. The following list is for the latter. Here are three things to look forward to this year in Cal Poly Athletics:

Green-Blue Rivalry

Few games throughout the year hold as much excitement and intensity as Men’s Soccer’s Blue-Green Rivalry match against UC Santa Barbara. 

Known as the biggest rivalry in NCAA soccer, the match consistently draws crowds of more than 11,000 people inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The venue has reached max capacity every year dating back to 2011 despite last season’s match taking place on a Sunday. Regardless of the day, the rare and immersive atmosphere inside Spanos Stadium results in an incredible display of competition between the two teams in nearly every installment.

Just one goal was scored in last year’s home match, a bending shot by junior midfielder Diego Alonso that fell over the top of UCSB’s goalkeeper in the 64th minute. However, the game also saw 34 fouls committed between the two teams, seven arrests for public intoxication or field invasion, and hundreds of tortillas launched onto the pitch throughout the competition. 

On the nights Cal Poly takes home a victory inside Spanos Stadium, hundreds of fans rush the field to celebrate with the team. 

In the Blue-Green Rivalry, the margins for error are slim. Only five of the last 24 meetings between the two teams have been decided by more than one goal. And while UCSB carries the all-time series lead at 26-15-8, the Gauchos have won just two of their last eight matches against Cal Poly. 

Head Coach Steve Sampson has added a lineup of experienced players and international talent ahead of the 2019 season. Among the addition of eight players, Sampson will look to graduate transfers Robert Knights, Spencer Held and Colin Hyatt to bring some maturity and structure to the Mustangs as the program returns from a seventh-place finish in last season’s Big West Conference.

This season’s edition of the Blue-Green Rivalry match inside Spanos Stadium will take place Saturday, November 2, with a kick-off time of 5 p.m. 

Baseball’s Big West title search with new player Brooks Lee

After a shaky 1-6 start to the 2019 season, head coach Larry Lee proved again why he is the winningest coach in the Big West Conference.

Cal Poly entered the conference season as an immediate threat and swept three of their first four opponents behind junior pitcher Bobby Ay. The set of sweeps included a three-game victory against UC Davis at Dobbins Stadium, a first for Cal Poly in program history. The Mustangs also took home series wins against University of Hawai’i and UC Riverside with their only series loss coming against UC Irvine.

Cal Poly positioned themselves in second-place with one final series remaining in the 2019 season. However, the Mustangs were required to win all three games against conference leader UC Santa Barbara in order to earn a share of the title. Cal Poly went on to win games No. 1 and 2, but dropped the final game of the series in a heartbreaking finish to the season.

According to Cal Poly Athletics, Lee received offers from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks. Cal Poly Athletics | Courtesy

However, with heavy-hitters Conagher Sands and Tate Samuelson returning, the program is in good shape to make another dominant run through the Big West in 2020. Junior pitcher Taylor Dollard is expected to make an impact after starting junior Bobby Ay was drafted to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2019 MLB draft. Dollard notched a 5-0 record in 2019 and was named to the All-Big West Conference First Team at the conclusion of the season.

And finally, the Mustangs will welcome freshman shortstop Brooks Lee, son of head coach Larry Lee. Brooks Lee cemented himself as one of the top high school players in the country and amassed a .405 batting average in his senior year at San Luis Obispo High. The standout player turned down offers ranging in the millions of dollars from several MLB teams last year after signing a letter of intent to play for his father in 2016. Now a Mustang, Lee will undoubtedly make an impact as the Mustangs search for their first Big West title in five years.

Cross Country success continues in the Big West

Last season, Cal Poly Cross Country achieved a feat seen only five other times in the history of the Big West Conference. Not only did Mustangs Jake Ritter and Miranda Daschian take home both Big West Athlete of the Year awards, but Cal Poly’s Mark Conover and Priscilla Bayley secured the Big West Coaches of the Year awards as well.

The achievements reflect yet another dominant appearance in the Big West Championships last season, where Daschian and Ritter each took home the championship title in the 8k race. The Mustangs continued to perform above the competition in team events as well and secured a sweep of men’s and women’s team titles for the fifth time in program history.

As if the showing was not impressive enough, the Men’s Cross Country team recorded a 32-point performance in route to their title victory. The team finished 37 points above second-place UC Santa Barbara.

Juniors Miranda Daschian and Katie Izzo went on to qualify for the NCAA Championships where Izzo clocked a 6k time of 20 minute 58 seconds, good enough for 82nd among 253 runners. Daschian’s 6k time of 21 minutes and nine seconds placed her at 112th in the competition.

While Izzo’s performance at the NCAA Championships was her last in a Cal Poly jersey, Ritter and Daschian will both be returning as Mustangs this season. And with both teams recently placing in the top 45 of the NCAA Division I Cross Country Rating Index (CCRI), the upcoming season appears to be a bright one for the Mustangs.

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