The Cal Poly volleyball team finished with a 4-26 overall record and a 6-10 mark in the Big West play.
A 6-10 conference record certainly isn’t ideal.
But after going 4-26 overall in 2012, the Cal Poly volleyball team will take whatever it can get from the 2013 season.
“I think as a staff and as a program that we are optimistic about how we finished the year,” head coach Sam Crosson said. “Certainly it’s an improvement, but I don’t think at all that we are satisfied. I think it’s a little bittersweet to some degree.”
The Mustangs capped off 2013 tied for fifth place in the Big West Conference and simply couldn’t come out victorious against stronger teams. Seventy percent of Cal Poly’s conference losses came against teams that finished higher in the standings.
“With Hawaii, (UC) Santa Barbara, (Cal State) Northridge and Long Beach (State), those programs are a little more established,” Crosson said. “That’s kind of the gap that we’re looking to work on in winter and spring.”
In only his second year at the helm, Crosson hopes recruiting will play a big part in closing that gap. All five of Cal Poly’s incoming recruits are more than six feet tall, and four competed at the 2013 Junior Olympics in Dallas, Texas.
“The recruits that are coming in are all coming from successful places,” Crosson said. “They’re accustomed and used to playing on a high level, a very competitive level. We need to be more athletic in the front row and a little taller and a little more dynamic in terms of the arms that we have on the court that generate kills.”
The Mustangs got plenty of kills from its senior class this season. Outside hitter Chelsea Hardin, who missed time with a hand injury, averaged 2.94 kills per set en route to first-team all-conference honors.
Megan McConnell led the Mustangs with 3.11, and showed dominance on both sides of the ball. The outside hitter’s 2.63 digs per set were second to senior Steffi Sooter, who averaged 3.22.
McConnell is one of only two players who started every match this season. Newcomer Taylor Gruenewald, recording 29 starts at middle blocker, concluded a banner freshman year with all-conference honorable mention and all-freshman team honors.
In addition to Hardin, McConnell and Sooter, Cal Poly graduates three other seniors, including Kate Walters, Marianne Gera and Jennifer Keddy, the 2011 Big West Conference Player of the Year.
With so many talented seniors moving on, Crosson will once again look to his decorated incoming freshman class.
“There are certainly going to be some group dynamic changes in terms of personalities and losing such a big senior class,” Crosson said. “(The new recruits) are all communicating with us on a weekly basis in terms of how excited they are to get to Poly and help elevate the program to where we know we can go.”
Cal Poly also saw progress with its road record this season. Having gone an abysmal 0-13 on the road in 2012, the Mustangs captured four conference victories outside of Mott Athletic Center this year.
“I think that’s something that good teams are capable of doing,” Crosson said. “That’s one of the big positives this group has learned. To be able to go into other people’s places and come out with victories.”
Though the season is over, there’s plenty of work to be done, Crosson said. Cal Poly will take advantage of the winter months, hoping to enhance team chemistry and iron out some technical kinks.
The Mustangs return to action this spring, where they’ve added sand volleyball competitions to the schedule.
New recruits arrive next August, just a few weeks before the 2014 season commences.
“I think this season kind of showed that we are getting better,” Crosson said. “But at the same time, we need to keep continuing to improve and become one of the teams that’s competing for a conference title year in and year out.”