With six freshmen, the Cal Poly women’s volleyball team is young, but all 13 team members grew up over the course of the 2009 season, according to head coach Jon Stevenson. With a 29-match slate and only 11 home games, Stevenson was right when he said that the team has been through a lot this season.
“They began a totally different team from start to finish,” Stevenson said.
Cal Poly was selected for a third-place finish in the Big West Conference standings following the results of the preseason coaches poll; as a result of Friday night’s game, they placed seventh out of nine.
Going into their last game of the 2009 regular season, the Cal State Northridge Matadors had a half-game lead in the battle for seventh-place in the Big West standings. But Cal Poly (9-20, 5-11) won 3-0 Nov. 20 at Mott Gym, 25-18, 25-17, 25-21, earning its ninth-straight victory against Cal State Northridge (8-21, 4-11) since 2005.
Stevenson said the game was a great way to end the regular season, capping the three months of intense competition, practice and even transformation. The team changed a lot over the course of this season in the players’ attitudes and interactions, he said.
Not only did the players grow up during the three-month season, Stevenson added, their skills improved on the court.
At their first 2009 season game against Oregon State Aug. 28, the team recorded a .196 attack percentage, but on Friday night, the three sets averaged .272. Stevenson attributed the night’s high hitting percentage to good passing. The team’s attack percentage for the season was .195.
If effective passing is what it takes to win a game, Cal Poly can credit reserve setter Hailey Fithian for Friday night’s game. While her teammates had either one or no assists, Fithian recorded 32 assists against CSUN, more than any other player on the court.
The lone senior on the team, Friday night was Fithian’s final match of her collegiate career. She is the only remaining player from fifth-year head coach Stevenson’s first campaign in 2005.
Fithian said Friday’s game was bittersweet and one she will remember out of all the others in her career. Her volleyball career at Cal Poly has taught her life lessons about working on a team and appreciating each part of the game, she said. “It’s all about the little moments.”
The team’s easy demeanor and supportive attitude were obvious on the court; Fithian said they have great chemistry on and off the court. “It’s a family,” she said. “I’ve never been on a team that got along so well.”
Fithian leaves Cal Poly ranked eighth in program history with 1,617 assists and the eighth-best single season total in Mustang history with 1,181 assists recorded during her 2008 junior campaign.
Karina Woehrstein, a psychology junior and libero for Cal State Northridge, said Division I volleyball is more competitive than she expected. Like every team, the Matadors have both beat and lost to teams they shouldn’t have. “Everyone kinda beats everyone,” she said. She attributed Cal Poly’s win to the Mustangs’ ability to pass, set and serve well on the court.
CSUN head coach Jeff Stork clearly summed up the hectic and competitive volleyball season when he said, “You win some, you lose some, and you got to play another one.”