Here’s a look at the top sports stories from San Luis Obispo County this year, as selected by The Tribune sports staff:
Cal Poly men’s soccer team edges rival UCSB in overtime
Steve Sampson’s first season leading the Cal Poly men’s soccer team was the success many around the Mustangs’ program hoped it would be.
The former U.S. Men’s National Team manager, who also has NCAA and MLS championships on his coaching resume, guided a veteran Cal Poly team to one of its best seasons in school history.
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Anchored by senior standouts Chase Minter, Matt Lagrassa, Kip Colvey and Wade Hamilton, the Mustangs finished second in the North Division of the Big West Conference standings and secured their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008.
Cal Poly went undefeated in nine home matches at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, and took three of four points from rival UC Santa Barbara in two of the more exciting matches of the college soccer season.
When the two teams met in San Luis Obispo on a crisp Oct. 17 night, junior defender Kody Wakasa headed in a corner kick from Jack O’Connor in double overtime to seal a thrilling 3-2 victory.
“That had to be one of the best college soccer games that I’ve ever been involved with or ever seen,” Sampson said in the chaotic moments after thousands of green-and yellow-clad fans rushed the field.
A sellout crowd of 11,075 matched the 12th-largest regular season attendance number in NCAA history, and less than two weeks later nearly 15,000 fans filled Harder Stadium for the second installment of the Blue-Green Rivalry.
The Mustangs went on to play four-time national champion UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, losing 2-0 on a cold night at Drake Stadium. The setback ended Cal Poly’s year at 11-5-5 overall, matching the program record for most wins in a season.
“This program has been growing every year and we’re becoming something that is a recognized name and this is just the first step in the tenure of Steve Sampson,” Minter said following the loss to UCLA. “I know that us as seniors, we wanted to really give a season that this program could go on and continue to grow and become the program that we all wanted it to be.”
At season’s end, Both Minter and Hamilton were invited to participate in the 2016 adidas Major League Soccer Player Combine, scheduled for Jan. 7-12 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Sampson said he also expects Colvey and Lagrassa to pursue professional soccer careers as part of one of the most successful classes in program history.
Isaac Lindsey on the road to recovery
It is a story equal parts tragic and heartwarming. The high school football community and thousands on the Central Coast rallied together following the devastating injury of Templeton High football player Isaac Lindsey in September.
Lindsey suffered a traumatic brain injury during a Sept. 18 game against San Luis Obispo High and was later diagnosed with secondary impact syndrome, a type of brain injury that occurs when a person suffers a second concussion before a previous concussion is fully healed. According to Lindsey’s family and the school, the the date and time of his previous concussion is unknown.
The life of the 17-year-old junior who played fullback and defensive line was saved, according to his family, thanks to the Templeton athletic trainer, first responders and a neurosurgeon who performed two brain surgeries. After the injury, Lindsey spent a week in a medically induced coma in critical condition at Sierra Vista Medical Center before being transferred to a rehab facility in San Jose. Ninety-five days after his initial injury, Lindsey returned home to his family on Dec. 22 to a hero’s welcome, just in time for Christmas.
In the three months since the injury, supporters have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the family to help Isaac’s recovery costs by purchasing “Team Isaac” stickers and T-shirts and giving to a GoFundMe.com page set up in his name.
Teams of all sports at San Luis Obispo County high schools wore the No. 32, Lindsey’s jersey number, as a show of support during and before games.
Lindsey will continue to rehab his mind and body at local facilities, and although he will likely never play football again, he is expected to have a role on the team next season and his road to recovery has inspired everyone who knows his story.
Mission Prep boys basketball team rolls into state playoffs
The Mission Prep boys basketball team fell in the second round of the state playoffs 79-73 to Campbell Hall. The Royals run was largely in part to the play of guard Quinton Adlesh, who was picked as The Tribune Player of the Year and currently plays for Columbia University.
The 6-foot-1 Adlesh averaged 19.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists as a senior, leading Mission Prep to a record of 25-7 and 13-1 in the PAC 8 in his final season. Adlesh came 50 points short of 2000 for his career, amssing more than 500 rebounda and assists.
Mission Prep’s only loss in PAC 8 play came to Righetti, who were led by Stanford commit Cameron Walker.
The Royals made it to the CIF-Southern Section Championship Division 4AA game, where they lost to the top seeded Crespi 61-52. Adlesh finished with 25 points, including 15 in the second half as Mission Prep trailed by as many as 18 in the first half before nearly completing a furious fourth-quarter rally.
Mission Prep went on to the state playoffs, where they beat Bakersfield Christian 78-39 before facing Campbell Hall.
Nipomo High football team wins playoff thriller
Hands down the most dramatic prep football game in San Luis Obispo County this season.
After missing a short field goal just before halftime, Nipomo kicker Juan Eguiluz made the most of his second chance by hitting the game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired to defeat Twentynine Palms 17-14 to advance the Titans to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs. According to Nipomo head coach Tony Dodge, it was the first game-winning field goal in school history.
Hitting a walk off field goal in the playoffs with everything on the line is hard enough, but that night a stiff wind blowing across the field made the kick even less probable.
After Nipomo’s defense stopped Twentynine Palms on a fourth-and-3 to get the ball back on its own 45. Despite struggling to move the ball all night, quarterback Gavin Hall completed a 35-yard pass to Lukas Kolesar on third down to put the Titans in field goal range.
After winning a CIF-SS Northwest Division title last season, Nipomo (7-6) wasn't able to defend after falling to Linfield Christian 35-14 in the next round, but an unexpected run through the playoffs and a dramatic walk-off win will keep the Central Coast talking well into the New Year.
Arroyo Grande High girls win water polo section title
The Arroyo Grande High girls water polo team beat Martin Luther King Jr. High of Riverside 6-4 to win the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 game.
Kate Empey had three goals in a come from behind victory for the Eagles, who finished the year 23-6 and 8-0 in the PAC 8.
It was the Eagles first title since 2010, where Arroyo Grande claimed their third consecutive Division 4 title.
Isabella Manuele scored in the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a 5-4 lead, a lead that they would not relinquish. Arroyo Grande tacked on a late goal from Sarah Parsons into an empty net in the final seconds. The Eagles did not surrender a goal in the final period to perserve the win.
Goalie Emily Sonny had 15 saves, one of which came on a penalty shot in the first quarter and another on a breakaway in the second.
The game was the first in which a team had scored more than five goals on Marth Luther King Jr. in the postseason.
Cal Poly football team sets Big Sky Conference rushing record
For the third consecutive year, no FCS team in the country was better at running the football than Cal Poly.
Though the Mustangs finished a trying season 4-7 overall, senior quarterback Chris Brown directed the triple-option offense to 4,260 rushing yards in 2015. That number set the school and Big Sky Conference rushing records for the second straight season.
Cal Poly had the No. 1 rushing offense in the country, averaging 387.3 yards per game, more than 40 yards ahead of next-closest team. Portland State was the only other Big Sky team to rush for more than 250 yards per contest, finishing the season at 250.6.
Brown was voted as the Mustangs’ most valuable and most inspirational player after leading the team in rushing yards (1,084), carries (203) and touchdowns (13). Junior Kori Garcia added 780 yards and five touchdowns, and sophomore Joe Protheroe contributed 779 yards and scored six times en route to earning first-team all-conference honors.
SLO High’s Callum Bolger, Paso Robles boys team shine at state cross country meet
San Luis Obispo runner Callum Bolger burst onto the cross country scene this fall. The junior finished in first place in nine of the 12 races he competed in this season, culminating in a second place finish at the 2015 CIF State Cross Country Championships.
Locally no one could touch Bolger. He won the PAC-8 Mid-Season Meet (15:04, personal record), the San Luis Obispo County Championship (15:27) and the PAC-8 League Finals (15:25), all 5,000 meter races, by an average of 23 seconds. As a 10th grader, Bolger was over shadowed by teammate Will Ernst and his best finish in a race was fourth.
This season Bolger set a new school record for the Lake Casillas course at the Ojai Invitational with a time of 15:21:80, breaking Ernst’s old record by seven seconds.
Bolger lost out on a state title to Austin Tamagno by 24 seconds, but with Tamagno graduating at the end of the school year, Bolger will have a good shot at taking the crown in 2016.
The Paso Robles High boys cross country team finished third at the state meet to cap a dominating season.
It was the first time in school history the Bearcats medaled at the meet.
Luis Armendariz was 14th as an individual in 15 minutes and 34 seconds, followed by teammate Trad Berti, who was 15th in 15:37.
Those were the two best times at the state meet in school history, coach Ivan Huff said.
The Bearcats finished second in Division 3 at the CIF-Southern Section championships the week before.
In addition, Paso Robles won the San Luis Obispo County meet, and the PAC 8 championship as they dominated local competition all season long.
Overall, it was a stellar season by the best boys cross country team the county has seen in years.
Travis Gibson, Tom Sepulveda
Former Poly star is top American heptathlon finisher at World Championships
Former Cal Poly track and field standout Sharon Day-Monroe finished 14th in the heptathlon at the IAAF world championships in Beijing.
Day-Monroe was the top American competitor, scoring 6,246 points.
Day-Monroe's best finish of the second day was in the 800, where she finished fourth in 2 minutes, 11.61 seconds. She also 11th in the long jump and 12th in the javelin.
She led all U.S. competitors after the first day, and was in 10th place with a 3736 point total. Day-Monroe's best finish of the first day came in the shot put, where she took third place with a mark of 48 feet, 8 3/4 inches. She also finished 11th in the 110-meter hurdles, 22nd in the high jump and 23rd in the 200.
Cal Poly misses baseball playoff for first time in three years
One year after winning its first Big West Conference championship, the Cal Poly baseball team did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons.
Head coach Larry Lee helped the Mustangs overcome a slow start to secure a fourth-place finish in the Big West at 27-27 overall. Picked to finish second in the conference preseason coaches poll, Cal Poly was nearly unbeatable at home and posted a 10-2 mark in Big West play at Baggett Stadium.
But the Mustangs went 1-2 in each of their four Big West road series, winning the opener each time before losing two straight.
Cal Poly’s run of four consecutive winning seasons came to an end, just the fourth time that’s happened in 13 seasons under Lee.
Cuesta’s Thomason brings home state title in pole vault
One of eight Cougars to qualify for the California Community College Athletic Association State Championships held on May 17, Thomason was the favorite to win the pole vault after posting a school-record and CCCAA- leading height of 13 feet, 4 1⁄2 inches at a meet in Santa Barbara earlier in 2015.
She cleared 12-4 to win the state title in San Mateo.
Cuesta continued its success in the men’s pole vault, where Joe Dreyer was fourth (15-4 1⁄4 ). Cal Poly transfer Connor Fisher was second in the men’s 5,000 with a time of 14 minutes 44.63 seconds, and Brandon Messerly finished third in the men’s 1,500 in 3:55.61.