Another week, another selection show.
The Cal Poly football team got left out of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs last week — though that outcome was essentially a foregone conclusion after a devastating 22-21 loss to UC Davis in the season finale a week prior.
Today, the Mustangs volleyball team sits firmly on the NCAA bubble, and a similar loss to a conference rival could also be what keeps its name from being called during the selection show, which is scheduled to air live at noon on ESPNEWS.
Cal Poly (22-7, 12-4 Big West Conference) has the makings of a solid postseason résumé, but a troublesome RPI might not be enough to overcome after a blown opportunity to topple No. 25 Cal State Fullerton, the Big West champion, early in conference play.
Trying to get back to the tournament for the first time since 2007, Mustangs head coach Jon Stevenson feels strongly that his team deserves an at-large berth but truly does not know what the decision will come down to for the selection committee.
“When we lost to Fullerton, we had four match points on our home court and didn’t beat them,” Stevenson said. “Maybe we pay for that and get left out.
“Who knows what they’re thinking? All I know is that the quality of the team I’m coaching has developed into quite a strong team.”
On the plus side, Cal Poly is riding a hot streak to end the season. The Mustangs have won eight of their past 10 and took seven of their final eight to tie Long Beach State for second place in the Big West.
The 22 regular-season wins is tied for the most in six years under Stevenson and is one more than the Mustangs had when they won the Big West and last went to the tournament in 2007.
Of Cal Poly’s seven losses, more than half came in five games, and the Mustangs’ only 3-0 loss was to No. 5 Nebraska.
Twenty-eight at-large berths will be awarded for the 64-team bracket, and Cal Poly is receiving votes in the latest top-25 coaches’ poll, but the Mustangs’ published RPI this week was 64th.
“We’re one of the best 25 teams in the nation, I’m certain of that,” Stevenson said. “Our ability to play and our record shows that. “It would be a crying shame if we were left out of this tournament. We’re a very strong team, and we could be a team that could be healthy for the first time this whole year.”
Also hurting Cal Poly’s chances is an early season defeat against Idaho State (18-13), which Stevenson considers the team’s only bad loss.
The Mustangs were sent reeling in that match after senior middle blocker Dominique Olowolafe broke her thumb.
Sophomore middle blocker Jennifer Keddy was limited in the early half of the season with an abdominal strain, and as Cal Poly got on a roll in Big West play, sophomore outside hitter Holly Franks suffered a stress fracture.
The two middles would be fully healthy for a postseason run, and Franks has had two weeks of rest to recuperate. Together with outside hitter Kristina Graven — who Stevenson calls a candidate for national freshman of the year — Stevenson said the Mustangs have the attack of an Elite Eight team.
“Whoever draws us if we are selected,” Stevenson said, “they’re in for it because we’re going to do some damage, because this team is healthy and fired up.”