The ballad of Devin Barber is the kind of story coaches love to tell.
So says Cal Poly men’s tennis coach Nick Carless, who’s watched the former Atascadero High standout work his way from being a recruited walk-on as a freshman to a team captain as a senior.
“He’s a captain,” Carless said at a news conference at Mott Athletics Center on Tuesday. “He’s playing No. 4 singles. He’s probably one of, if not our best, doubles players. … His overall size and athleticism make him a great leader on the doubles court, not only with how he plays but vocally, and you need that in a team tennis match.”
One of only two seniors for the Mustangs (2-0) as they head into a road swing at nationally-ranked San Diego State and San Diego on Friday and Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Barber is tied for the team lead with seven victories this school year.
The left-hander went 7-5 in tournament play, including a run to the consolation final of the USTA Southwest Regional Championships back in October.
It’s been a story of hard work paying off for Barber, whose mother, Amy, was a Division II All-American at Cal Poly. Amy Barber also coached Devin at Atascadero High, where he and fraternal brother Kyle advanced to the CIF-Southern Section doubles championships as both juniors and seniors.
Devin Barber continued his career at Cal Poly but didn’t immediately see any time on the court in matches. He went his entire freshman and sophomore seasons without an appearance, but since Carless turned to him for the first time last season, he’s been a staple in dual matches.
So far this dual season, Barber has been on the No. 2 doubles team, but when the Mustangs host nationally ranked New Mexico in their next home match Feb. 13, Carless said, he could easily be utilized on the No. 1 team.
“He’s really wanted it,” Carless said. “He’s wanted to be a Cal Poly Mustang Division I tennis player his whole life growing up in Atascadero, and he’s a great example of a kid who came here and really earned his spot in the lineup, worked hard every day.
“It’s been fun to watch.”
Mustangs picked third in conference poll
After missing out on the conference title and NCAA Tournament berth by one victory in a resurgent season last year, the Cal Poly softball team was picked to finish third in the Big West Conference preseason coaches’ poll Tuesday.
The Mustangs return three all-conference first-teamers, including reigning Big West Pitcher of the Year and designated hitter Sierra Hyland, from a 2014 squad that went 33-19 overall and 14-7 in Big West play.
Cal Poly received one first-place vote and 50 total points to finish behind defending conference champion Long Beach State (59 points) and Cal State Fullerton (56).
Cal Poly opens the season on Feb. 6 against Creighton and No. 2 Oregon at the Arizona State-hosted Kajikawa Classic.
Mustangs go outdoors for Bakersfield rivalry
Highlighted by senior Dominic Kastl’s premier matchup against a high-ranked rival, the Cal Poly wrestling team will cap its home schedule with a dual meet outdoors at the University Union plaza against CSU Bakersfield on Thursday.
The outdoor match is a unique way for the Mustangs (1-12) to gain national attention during the winter.
“For us to showcase the Central Coast and the campus and the idea of wrestling outside in February and January, it’s unheard of,” Cal Poly head coach Brendan Buckley said. “I’m looking at the blizzard of all-time in the Northeast and my friends in New York, and it was 70 degrees here (Monday).
“That is a way to define our niche. California is a great place to go to school. It’s a great place to wrestle Division I. We have a strong schedule; Have a strong following, a rich history. I think this is just another way to add another element to the program.”
After a high school match between Clovis West and Bakersfield at 1 p.m., the Mustangs will meet the Roadrunners at 3 p.m.
Kastl with face off with Bakersfield’s Bryce Hammond at 174 pounds. Hammond (12-5) comes into the match ranked 13th in the nation and beat Kastl (11-4) 4-2 in their most recent meeting last year, but Kastl owns a 2-1 victory over Hammond from a dual meet about a month earlier.
Mustangs trio earns Big Sky All-Academic honors
Cal Poly football junior safety Kaulin Blair, junior center Stephen Sippel and freshman fullback Joe Protheroe each earned spots on the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team.
To be eligible, Mustangs student-athletes had to play in at least half of his team’s games and maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 3.2 or better at the conclusion of the fall quarter.