SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — The Cal Poly volleyball team is set to begin its 2018 season this week at the Panther Challenge in Pittsburgh.
Friday's first serve of the tournament will be at 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. Eastern) vs. Pepperdine inside Fitzgerald Field House followed by a match against the 20th ranked host Panthers at 4 p.m. (7 p.m. Eastern).
The No. 24 Mustangs will return to action Saturday against Butler at 1 p.m. (4 p.m. in Pittsburgh) to wrap up the tournament.
"Fans of Cal Poly volleyball can expect to see a team that carries on the style and type of play that helped us win the 2017 Big West Conference Championship," head coach Sam Crosson noted of this year's team. "We are going to run a fast offense, play smart, and play as a united group. We have a great collection of players who all have various skill sets and abilities that will be called upon to help us win this season at various times."
The Waves finished 16-15 last season, going 8-10 in the very competitive West Coast Conference. They are picked to finish fourth in the WCC Preseason Poll. The Mustangs are 23-12 all-time against Pepperdine. The last meeting was in 2009. The No. 20 Panthers won the ACC last season after going 26-7 and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. The Mustangs are 1-0 all-time against Pittsburgh, the only meeting happened in 1982. The Bulldogs went 23-8 in 2017, finishing third in the Big East. Cal Poly is 1-0 all-time against Butler, with the only meeting being in 1994.
"We are taller and more athletic team at the net so we expect to be a better blocking and defensive team," Crosson said. "From an intangible perspective we have a great group of competitive, driven, and selfless players. The returners from last season will be looked at and called upon to lead the younger players in our program and from what I have seen since the start of fall camp in August we are making great strides as a collective group."
Mustangs Earn Preseason Ranking: For the first time since 2008, Cal Poly is ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Top 25 Poll, capturing the 24th spot.
After going 27-3 last year, the Mustangs ended the season ranked No. 22 in the final AVCA Top 25 Poll. At one point during the season they were ranked as high as No. 21. In last year's AVCA Preseason Poll they were in the 'others receiving votes' category before breaking into the Top 25 October 9.
Cal Poly Picked To Repeat As Big West Champion: After capturing its first Big West title in 10 years, Cal Poly was selected to repeat as the Big West Conference women's volleyball champion after claiming five first-place votes en route to a 77-point total, as voted on by the nine head coaches.
The University of Hawai'i secured the remaining four first-place votes to lock down the second spot with 75 points. UC Irvine followed in the third slot with 62 points, while Long Beach State registered 48 points to rank fourth and UC Santa Barbara was close behind in fifth place with 45 points. The Aggies of UC Davis nabbed 38 points for the sixth spot and was followed by CSUN (30), UC Riverside (18) and Cal State Fullerton (12).
The Mustangs are coming off a year where they posted the program's best overall record of 27-3, a perfect 16-0 Big West Conference mark and an undefeated home record for the first time since 2007. Led by 2017 AVCA Pacific North Coach of the Year Sam Crosson, Cal Poly posted its first NCAA Tournament win since 2007.
RETURNING POWER: The Mustangs return four players who earned Big West postseason awards this past season in seniors Adlee Van Winden and Katherine Brouker, junior Torrey Van Winden and sophomore Madilyn Mercer. Torrey and Adlee Van Winden were both named to the First Team All-Big West as well as AVCA All-American Honorable Mention. Brouker received Honorable Mention honors and Mercer was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team a year ago.
MUSTANGS AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS: As a team, the Mustangs concluded 2017 ranked in the nation's Top 10 in kills per set (2nd - 15.07), assists (4th - 14.06), win/loss percentage (5th - .900) and hitting percentage (7th - .310).
Individually, junior Torrey Van Winden finished sixth in the nation last season in kills per set (4.72), second in the Big West.
BROUKER DIGGING THROUGH THE RECORD BOOKS: Mustang senior libero Katherine Brouker is fourth in program history for digs per set, with 3.76.
Last season, she finished fifth in the Big West in digs and was named Big West Defensive Player of the Week Oct. 30.
Last season, Torrey finished the year with 4.83 kills per set. That was good for second highest kills per set average in program history. She compiled a total of 488 kills, seventh most in a single season in program history.
Heading into her senior season, Adlee has a career 3.64 kills per set average. She currently sits seventh in program history for career kills per set average.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: Tickets are available at GoPoly.com, by calling (805) 756-4849 or by visiting the sidewalk window at the on-campus Performing Arts Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.
Upcoming home matches in Mott Athletics Center feature several community events and fan giveaways:
Sept. 6 (Thur., 7 p.m.) • vs. UCLA
2017 Big West Champions banner ceremony
Sept. 28 (Fri., 7 p.m.) • vs. CSUN
Youth Night – all kids 13-and-under receive free admission, with a postgame autograph session with the team courtside
Sept. 29 (Sat., 7 p.m.) • vs. Long Beach State
Double-Up Saturday, the match is free to anyone showing a ticket for the football game vs. Montana.
Oct. 6 (Sat., 7 p.m.) • vs. Hawai'i
Alumni Night / Blackout – The first 250 fans will receive black Cal Poly volleyball shirts.
Nov. 16 (Fri., 7 p.m.) • vs. UC Riverside
Faculty & Staff Appreciation Night: All Cal Poly instructors and staff receive up to four free tickets.
Nov. 17 (Sat., 7 p.m.) • vs. Cal State Fullerton
Families are also encouraged to sign up for Mustang Kids Club ($10 per child/8th grade or under), as benefits include ongoing free admission to all regular-season soccer, volleyball, wrestling & women's basketball events along with select football, men's basketball and baseball games; plus invitations to exclusive events, birthday cards, free ice cream from Doc Burnstein's and a T-Shirt.
Cal Poly students always get into games for free, and are also invited to join the Stang Gang. Stang Gang — Cal Poly's student fan group — features several rewards for a $10 one-time lifetime registration fee, including prizes from sponsors such as Woodstock's Pizza, Eureka! and VISA, a member T-Shirt, and more upon reaching point levels by checking in at games.