It was just 57 minutes into the season opener of Megan Abutin’s senior year when the Cal Poly midfielder saw it all come to an end last fall against Cal with a torn ACL.
Abutin was coming off a 2015 season in which she scored three goals and tallied five assists, and she was also ranked ninth nationally with 12 assists in 2014. Needless to say, there were high hopes for her 2016 season.
“It was hard because that was supposed to be my senior class,” Abutin said. “All the girls I’d been here with for the last four years were playing out there, so it was kind of hard to not be out there and be able to help.”
Without Abutin’s play making in the middle, the Mustangs struggled at times last season to find the back of the net and finished with a 5-6-1 record. But Abutin was granted a medical redshirt for the season and was able to return for this year.
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Now, Abutin and her 20 career assists, two shy of the school record and tied for second overall, is making up for lost time.
With the transfer of Caitlyn Kreutz to UNLV — the Mustangs’ leader in goals last year — Cal Poly is looking to fill the scoring vacuum. Chances are that vacuum will be filled by one of the many young players on the roster with Abutin’s play-making ability and leadership pulling it all together.
“It’s definitely a young class,” Abutin said. “From the start, we’ve really worked to incorporate (the younger players) into the team.”
In Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss in the Big West opener to UC Irvine, only two upperclassmen started for the Mustangs. Not surprisingly, Cal Poly’s goal with three minutes left in regulation to tie the score at 1-1 on Friday came from a freshman.
And Abutin placed two shots on goal in Sunday’s 1-0 home loss to UC Riverside. So far this season, she leads Cal Poly with four goals to go along with one assist in 13 games played.
Like Abutin, Georgina Steigeler was forced to miss last season for medical reasons. Steigeler has chronic knee pain that dates back to high school and allows her to play only three months out of the year.
During those three months, Steigeler receives cortisone shots to stave off the pain.
Without consistent playing time for the past several years, Steigeler is still adjusting to the pace of the collegiate game while getting match fit.
“This is probably the most minutes I’ve played in a game,” Steigeler said. “I stayed here all summer to get fit.”
Head coach Alex Crozier tabbed both Abutin and Steigeler as players he was excited to see return to the field — in addition to forward Michaela Olney — after last season.
Abutin says that she feels the team is “almost there to connecting all the pieces,” just in time for the remainder of the conference season.