#BWCWarmUp Fall Preview - Cal Poly
BigWest.org talked with Cal Poly head coaches Alex Crozier (women's soccer), Paul Holocher (men's soccer) and Sam Crosson (women's volleyball) to preview the upcoming 2014 season.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Game Changer: Big West Conference Player of the Year Elise Krieghoff, who led the nation as a sophomore in goals scored having found the net 21 times to pace the country, will anchor the Mustang offense at the top. The junior was named to the NSCAA All-West Region First Team and her 21 goals broke a 21-year old program record at Cal Poly. Krieghoff received five Big West player of the week honors to set a new conference record for the most recognitions in a single season and stands at third all-time in Big West history with her sophomore campaign goal-total.
Thrice As Nice: The trifecta of offensive threats in Krieghoff, senior Sara Lancaster and sophomore Megan Abutin, who had the second-highest number of goals scored on the team with four as a true freshman.
Happy At Home: As the outright Big West regular season champion last season, the Mustangs will have home field advantage for the upcoming Big West Tournament upon their qualification for the tourney. Said coach Alex Crozier, "It’s great for us to play at home. We have great crowds, it’s an environment we’re comfortable with and I think it’ll be a really great weekend."
Lancaster Leads: Lancaster, who led the Mustangs in goals scored her freshman campaign with eight, enters her senior season as someone who has always been a leader on and off the field, according to Crozier. “She has not been someone that’s searched out trying to be the ‘captain’ or the leader, it just kind of found her. That happened because she is who she is and she’s done what she’s done and players respect that,” said Crozier.
Giannetti Saves The Day: Junior goalkeeper Alyssa Giannetti leads all active members of the conference in career saves with 207 heading into 2014. Giannetti also ranks fifth in the conference in minutes played (1781:41) and tenth in goals against average (1.66).
QUOTABLES – ALEX CROZIER
(On Sara Lancaster) “She’s very effective in our attack. She brings the whole package and it’s nice having someone like that in the program.”
(On Alyssa Giannetti) “There’s a level of comfort when she’s on the field. Players feel it, you can see the confidence in the team; she’s changed the team dynamic.”
(On incoming class) “It’s kind of like Christmas. We’re going to open up some presents in a couple of weeks and see what we got. So there’s potential from quite a few that can make an impact right away, but that remains to be seen.”
(On burning the statistics from a six-game losing streak last season) “I wanted to give the players something to hold onto, so we basically purged those games and got them out of our system right before conference started. I don’t think they were ever stressed out about it, but if you lose six games in a row you start to second-guess.”
(On Elise Krieghoff) “She does a good job of making the players around her better.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
3 Only Big West squad with three players on the active career leaderboard in points: Krieghoff (67), Lancaster (35), Sara Epps (17).
7 Total number of regular season championships for Cal Poly since Big West women’s soccer began in 1996.
10 Incoming players for the 2014 season.
21 The number of goals Krieghoff scored to lead the nation in netters.
200 Milestone win total that head coach Alex Crozier reached last season.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Life Without Mac: The Mustangs scored a single-season school record 43 goals in 2013. Fourteen of those scores came off the foot of Mackenzie Pridham. Pridham, a CollegeSoccerNews.com All-America third team honoree and two-time Big West Offensive Player of the Year, leaves behind a legacy of goal scoring as he exited the program as the career leader with 27 goals. Who will step up to fill the void?
Young Pups Unite: Two members of the Big West All-Freshman Team – forwards Justin Dhillon and Ariel Lassiter – are candidates to plug the gap left by Pridham’s departure. Lassiter ranked second on the team with 14 points on five goals and four assists, while Dhillon’s six assists was second-best on the team.
Wade’s World: The last line of defense is in highly capable hands with two-year starting goalkeeper Wade Hamilton in net. Hamilton owns career numbers of 128 saves, a 1.40 goals against average and 3,018 minutes played. He started all 21 matches last year.
The Defense Can’t Rest: Holocher intimated that while the Mustangs scored a ton of goals last season, they also gave up more than they would have liked last season. Holocher is excited about developing two incoming freshman defenders in Sam Strong and David Levitsky. He also pointed to veteran leaders such as Kip Colvey and Kody Wakasa as players who can mentor the younger players. Holocher identified Colvey as one of the best outside backs in the country.
Spanos Stadium Magic: Cal Poly is 42-15-10 at Spanos Stadium since the venue opened in 2007, giving the team one of the best home field advantages in the country. The Mustangs enjoy an early stretch in which they play eight of nine games at home, including opening the formidable Big West schedule against South Division stalwarts UC Irvine and CSUN. The lone road game during that nine-game stretch is a doozy – Sept. 14 at UCLA. The Mustangs attempt to win on the home turf of the Bruins for the second consecutive year.
QUOTABLES – PAUL HOLOCHER
(On loss of Mackenzie Pridham) “Mac was obviously a very special player in his mentality and in his ability to score goals. But I also feel that we have some terrific young players that are now going to be given the opportunity to play in that number nine role and have both the ability and desire to produce goals.”
(On the overall roster) “We do have a young team, but we have a number of players with many games under their belt as well. It’s going to be a good blend for us, and it will be exciting.”
(On playing in the Big West) “Every game is an absolute war. Every team has a little bit different way of playing. You have to be able to take each game as a little championship in and of itself, and go after that game. They’re all incredibly important.”
(On experienced goalkeeper Wade Hamilton) “He knows our system very well, and each year he’s gaining his understanding in it. To have somebody that has that experience, it’s such a positive for the team. He’s a clear vocal leader for the team. We’re very lucky and excited about Wade.”
(On Chase Minter) “Chase has improved every year he has been at Cal Poly. He’s a very good soccer player, he can play multiple positions, and we will see where he’ll best be utilized this year.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
4 Number of consecutive sellouts at Spanos Stadium for the annual rivalry match against UC Santa Barbara.
7 Assist total for Chase Minter in 2013, tying him for fourth in the Mustang record book.
37 Overall selection in the 2014 Major League Soccer SuperDraft for Cal Poly senior George Malki, who went to the Montreal Impact.
43 Total number of goals Cal Poly scored in 2013 to set the school’s single-season record.
58 Pridham’s draft spot in the 2014 MLS Super Draft, selected by Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Setter Not Settled: Cal Poly has a heated competition at the setter position this season with junior Maddie Kuber and freshman Taylor Nelson entering fall camp with the potential to be the Mustangs’ starter. While Kuber’s sophomore campaign was cut short due to an ACL injury suffered midway through the season, she still managed to finish sixth in the Big West Conference with a 9.19 assist average. Nelson, PrepVolleyball.com National Player of the Year and 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year, guided Granite Bay High School to a Division I California State Championship with a perfect 45-0 record in her final season. Benefiting from a winter enrollment at Cal Poly, she already has a head start entering the 2014 season with the additional training with the coaching staff. When speaking with Head Coach Sam Crosson, he mentioned that the setter position is up for grabs and both players will likely quarterback the team this season.
The Future Is Bright: With five returning letterwinners, including All-Big West Honorable Mention member Taylor Gruenewald, and a highly-touted incoming class, Cal Poly hopes to continue its momentum created a season ago. In 2013, the Mustangs produced an eight-win turnaround season with a 12-17 mark and tied for fifth in the Big West Conference, the program’s highest showing in three years, after registering a 6-10 record. With nine freshmen listed on the 2014 roster, including two redshirts, some feel this may be a rebuilding year but the coaching staff – Crosson, and assistant coaches Caroline Walters and Chris Tamas – is approaching this year as an extension of what was created over the last two seasons at Cal Poly. So look for the Mustangs to continue to make strides to their ultimate goal of winning the conference championship.
Diaper Dandies Put Up A Fight: The highly-touted incoming class has quite a few “who’s who” in women’s volleyball, including Caihla Petiprin and Raeann Greisen, who were teammates on the Junior Olympics championship team. Petiprin is a 6-1 middle blocker from Carlsbad, Calif., and Greisen, a 6-2 outside hitter, hails from San Diego, Calif. They may be diaper dandies but look for both to make a strong showing at their respective position as they battle for the starting role.
All-Big West Honoree Returns: Cal Poly welcomes back sophomore Taylor Gruenewald, who earned All-Big West Honorable Mention and All-Freshman accolades last season. The Southlake, Texas, native finished the 2013 season ranked sixth in the league with a .302 hitting percentage while ranking 19th in kills with 266. She also led the team with 74 total blocks (0.69 blocks per set).
Let The Games Begin: Cal Poly opens conference play with a bang as it visits 2013 Big West tri-champion and central coast foe UC Santa Barbara on September 27. The Mustangs follow that up with a pair of home contests against UC Davis and UC Riverside. Last season Cal Poly kicked off the conference portion of its schedule with a pair of wins, part of a season-long four-game win streak. As the season progresses, things definitely do not lighten up for the Mustangs as they close out the year playing three consecutive matches against the 2013 tri-champions - CSUN, Hawai’i and UC Santa Barbara.
QUOTABLES – SAM CROSSON
(On the freshman class) “We are very enthusiastic with the freshman class we have coming in, not just because of their skill set but because of who they are, the principles they have and their work ethic. We are very excited to see how everything plays out in the conference.”
(On the veterans) “We will rely heavily on our three juniors for leadership. They are much more in tune with our program and our staff and understand the direction the program is going.”
(On the schedule) “We have a lot of good teams on our schedule this year. We try to schedule teams that will challenge us and are competitive within their respective conference. And we have a lot of home contests which is new for the program this year.“
(On continuing to improve) “Based on the talent level we have, we are looking at this year being a continuation of the past few years, not necessarily a rebuilding year. We gauge our success on whether we are playing better than we were the week before.”
(On freshman Raeann Greisen) “Of the incoming freshmen, she probably has the most skill set entering the season and the most prepared to play right away.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
8 Number of wins Cal Poly improved upon in 2013, Sam Crosson’s second season at the helm.
13 Total number of home contests played at Mott Gym this season, the most since 2008.
23 Ranking Cal Poly received in the PrepVolleyball.com Top 30 recruiting class for 2014.
60 Percentage of freshmen on the Mustangs’ 2014 roster.
72 The average height of Cal Poly’s 2014 women’s volleyball roster (in inches).