Cal Poly Volleyball will play its final match of of the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 23 versus Cal State Fullerton. For seniors Mika Dickson, Nikki Jackson, Jessica McRoskey, Nadia Retoff and Torrey Van Winden, the match marks the last time they will compete for Cal Poly inside Mott Athletics Center.
Cal Poly (19-8, 12-3 Big West) is currently second place in the Big West Conference standings. The final game is a must-wins for the Mustangs, who are looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament after last season’s first-round loss to the University of San Diego.
“Of course [the seniors] want to be celebrated on Saturday, but if you ask them, “Lets trade that for a tournament match?’ then they would say ‘Done,’” head coach Caroline Walters said. “They want what is best for the program.”
Cal Poly’s seniors will leave a significant legacy behind as the volleyball program has seen record-performing seasons the last three years. During their collegiate careers, the group has collected back-to-back Big West Championships paired with two NCAA Tournament appearances. The Mustangs also hold the nation’s-best home winning streak at 31 matches.
“I think all these kids have done remarkable things in their four years and have made us better where we are now from their freshman year,” Walters said.
Senior opposite hitter Torrey Van Winden holds one of the best individual seasons in program history. After transferring from UCLA after her freshman year, Van Winden recorded the second-highest single-season kills per set average in program history (4.83). Van Winden was named to the Pacific North AVCA All-Region First Team and All-Big West First Team the same season.
Van Winden’s success continued to grow her junior year as she finished the regular season with an average of 5.07 kills per set and was named Big West Player of the Year. Van Winden has been unable to play in her final season at Cal Poly due to injury. However, Walters noted Van-Winden’s impact and contributions off the court.
“Obviously, not having Torrey on the court has been a void for us, but her presence in terms of how she sees the game and communicates that to people has had a big impact,” Walters said.
Senior libero Mika Dickson has played a total of 95 matches throughout her career and has collected 701 digs during her four-year span. Dickson had an immediate impact in her freshman year as she finished second on the team in service aces (24). Her 214 digs during the same season were fourth-best on the team
However, Dickson has recorded a team-high 3.35 digs per set for 337 total digs in her senior year, which are fifth and sixth-best in the Big West Conference, respectively.
“I definitely took on a lot more responsibilities and learned that I was capable of more than I thought I could coming in,” Dickson said. “It made me a stronger person and more confident in my abilities.”
Senior outside hitter Jessica McRoskey also made an instant impact on the program as she led the team with 32 service aces her freshman year. Playing in 19 of the 26 matches this season, McRoskey has compiled a career-high 1.88 kills per set.
Though she previously played in the back row in a defensive position, McRoskey has stepped in as one of the outside hitters this season to fill the void of Van Winden. McRoskey said the transition from the back row to front was easy since she played outside hitter in high school.
“I think some people on the team did not actually know that I was a hitter,” McRoskey said.
“After having two knee surgeries in the offseason, to be able to come and do what [McRoskey] is doing is just incredible,” Walters said.
Nikki Jackson, another senior outside hitter, has also stepped into a larger role this season. Jackson’s time on the court has increased from 16 matches during her junior year to 23 matches this season, resulting in career-highs in total kills and digs.
“Nikki Jackson has grown so much in understanding how much confidence she has in herself,” Walters said.
Senior middle bumper Nadia Retoff contributed to Cal Poly instantly on the defensive side of the court. In her sophomore campaign, she had the second-highest blocks per set average at .79 with 31 total blocks.
“[Dickson and Retoff] have probably grown the most in terms of opening up as people and being more confident, not only in their volleyball skills, but in who they are as people,” Walters said.
While Cal Poly’s five seniors have all contributed to the program’s success in recent years, Walters said the best part about them is the type of people they have grown to be outside the sport of volleyball.
“It is great to have good volleyball players and watch them improve, but to have relationships with these girls who are much different than they were as freshmen just speaks about their journey,” Walters said.
Cal Poly will conclude their regular season with Senior Night on Saturday, Nov. 23 against Cal State Fullerton. The match kicks off at 5 p.m inside Mott Athletics Center.