SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — After playing the opening weekend of the 2019 season on the road, the Cal Poly volleyball team opens its 11-match home schedule at Mott Athletics Center when hosting the inaugural ShareSLO Mustang Challenge September 5-7.
Having won a program-record 21 straight home matches with two consecutive seasons of a perfect record at home, the Mustangs (0-3, 0-0 Big West) welcome in three teams for this week's event.
This is the first tournament Cal Poly volleyball has hosted since the 2015 season.
Cal Poly opens at home Thursday at 7 p.m. against North Texas (2-1). The Mustangs swept the Mean Green last season when Cal Poly faced them at their tournament in Denton, Texas. The Mustangs are 8-0 all-time against North Texas.
Cal Poly then faces Wichita State (2-1) Friday night at 7 p.m. Before the match, there will be a banner raising ceremony to celebrate their 2018 Big West title. The Mustangs beat the Shockers last season 3-1, also at the North Texas tournament. Cal Poly is 4-0 all-time against Wichita State.
The Mustangs wrap up the ShareSLO Mustang Challenge Saturday at 6 p.m. against San Jose State (1-2). Cal Poly is 18-17 all-time against the Spartans, with the last meeting coming back in 2015 in which the Mustangs won 3-1.
The complete ShareSLO Mustang Challenge schedule is below.
Live stats, audio streaming, and video streaming will be available for all of Cal Poly's matches. Live stats will be available for all six matches during the tournament.
Playing three teams who made the 2018 NCAA Tournament, Cal Poly fell to 0-3 to start the season after three-set losses to now No. 12 Kentucky and Saint Mary's, and a hard-fought five-set loss to now No. 19 Utah.
2019 ShareSLO Mustang Challenge
Mott Athletics Center (San Luis Obispo, CA)
Thursday, Sept. 5
Wichita State vs. San Jose State, 4 pm
North Texas vs. Cal Poly, 7 pm
Friday, Sept. 6
San Jose State vs. North Texas, 4 pm
Wichita State vs. Cal Poly, 7 pm
Saturday, Sept. 7
North Texas vs. Wichita State, 12 pm
San Jose State vs. Cal Poly, 6 pm
Mustangs Earn Preseason Top 25 Ranking: For the second straight year, Cal Poly was ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Top 25 Poll, capturing the 23rd spot.
After going 25-3 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. 11, the highest ranking the program has had since 2008. In last year's AVCA Preseason Poll they were ranked No. 24.
Cal Poly Picked To Three-Peat As Big West Champion: Coming off its second consecutive Big West championship in 2018, the Mustangs were selected to three-peat in 2019 after receiving five first-place votes and a total of 77 points.
Hawai'i, who finished second last season, was picked to finish second this season. They received four first-place votes and a total of 76 points. UC Santa Barbara (59 points), UC Irvine (52 points), and Long Beach State (46 points) rounded out the rest of the top five.
In the last two seasons, Cal Poly has gone 31-1 in conference matches. This would be the first Big West three-peat in program history. Overall, the Mustangs have won the Big West five times: 1984, 2006, 2007, 2017, 2018.
Tough Non-Conference Schedule: Cal Poly has 12 matches on its non-conference schedule this season. Seven of those matches are against teams who finished inside the RPI Top 50 and made the NCAA Tournament last season.
Home Sweet Home: With wins over North Texas Thursday and Wichita State Friday, the Mustangs have won 23 straight home matches at Mott Athletics Center. That is the longest streak in program history and second-longest active streak in Division I behind only Stanford (36).
Cal Poly went undefeated at home last season (10-0) for the second straight year. In 2017, they went a perfect 8-0. The Mustangs' home winning streak began Nov. 11, 2016 and they last lost at home Oct. 28, 2016 to UC Santa Barbara.
The Mustangs also had the second-highest average home attendance last season amongst Division I schools in California, trailing only Stanford.
Returning Power: Although the program lost two key all-conference players to graduation, the Mustangs return 14 players from last year's team — including five starters.
Reigning Big West Player of the Year and AVCA All-American opposite hitter Torrey Van Winden returns for her senior season. Last year, Van Winden was second in the Big West and third in the nation in kills per set (5.07) and led the conference in hitting percentage (.365). Her 5.07 kills per set was the second-highest single-season average in program history. In addition, she also owns the third-spot in that category for her 2017 average of 4.83.
Junior Madilyn Mercer returns following an All-Big West First Team sophomore season. Mercer led the conference in blocks last season at 1.12 blocks per set. She had a match last season at Hawai'i that saw her total 11 block assists, just two shy of tying a program record. She was also fourth on the team in kills and 10th in the Big West in hitting percentage (.289).
Sophomores Avalon DeNecochea and Meredith Phillips come back looking to continue with the success they had in their rookie campaigns. DeNecochea was named Big West Co-Freshman of the Year (the first Mustang since 2015), All-Conference Honorable Mention and All-Freshman Team after filling the void at the setter position previously held by Taylor Nelson and directing the Cal Poly offense to the best hitting percentage in the Big West and seventh-highest in the nation at .295. DeNecochea was second in the conference in assists per set at 10.32 and was fourth on the team in both blocks and digs.
Phillips, a middle blocker, was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team and All-Conference Honorable Mention after finishing third on the team in kills and second in blocks. She also had the fifth-highest hitting percentage in the Big West at .325.
Mustangs Among Big West and National Leaders: Statistically as a team, Cal Poly was amongst the leaders in multiple categories both in the Big West and nationally last season.
The Mustangs ranked first in the Big West in hitting percentage (seventh in the nation) at .290, opponent hitting percentage (.177), kills per set (13.76), assists per set (12.88) and blocks per set (2.45).
New(ish) Head Coach: In December, Cal Poly hired Caroline Walters to become the new head volleyball coach. However, Walters is no stranger to Cal Poly. This is now her 11th year with the program, having been both an assistant coach/associate head coach since 2009.
This is also not her first experience as head coach. Three matches into the 2011 season, Walters was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Heading into her first full-time gig as head coach, she has a career record of 9-16.
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 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday.
Upcoming home matches in Mott Athletics Center feature several events and fan giveaways:
Sept. 6 (Fri., 7 p.m.) • vs. Wichita State
2018 Big West Champions banner ceremony
Oct. 4 (Fri., 7 p.m.) • vs. UC Riverside
Youth Night – all kids 13-and-under receive free admission, with a postgame autograph session with the team courtside
Oct. 5 (Sat., 7 p.m.) • vs. UC Davis
Double-Up Saturday, the match is free to anyone showing a ticket for the football game vs. Montana State.
Oct. 11 (Fri., 7 p.m.) • vs. Hawai'i
High School Volleyball Night / Whiteout – The first 500 fans will receive white Cal Poly volleyball shirts.
Nov. 9 (Sat., 7 p.m.) • vs. UCSB
Blue-Green Rivalry / Alumni Night
Nov. 22 (Fri., 7 p.m.) • vs. UC Irvine
Faculty & Staff Appreciation Night: All Cal Poly instructors and staff receive free tickets.
Nov. 23 (Sat., 5 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, 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, a member T-Shirt, and more upon reaching point levels by checking in at games