This year’s team features 12 returners and seven newcomers. Five players come back who played in at least 80 sets last season. The seven newcomers consist of six freshmen and one transfer.
The most anticipated return for Cal Poly fans will be redshirt senior opposite hitter Maia Dvoracek, who was forced to miss all of last season while recovering from a serious knee injury she suffered in the spring of 2021. She last played in 2019 where she burst on to the scene in her first year as a starter. That year, she led the team and was second in the Big West in kills at 4.25 per set in addition to ranking top-five in the nation in service aces. She was named First Team All-Big West and an AVCA Third Team All-American, becoming the seventh Mustang in program history to be named to one of the three All-American teams.
Plenty of talent returns alongside Dvoracek, including two players who were All-Big West last season. Outside hitter Tommy Stockham is back for her second season with the Mustangs after garnering First Team All-Big West honors last season after she led the team and was fourth in the Big West in kills at 3.54 per set. That included posting at least 20 kills five times and double digit kill numbers in 16 of 20 conference matches.
Returning for this final season at middle blocker is a senior Meredith Phillips, a starter since her freshman year. Phillips, a three-time All-Big West honoree, earned Honorable Mention All-Big West last year after leading the Mustangs in blocks with 118, ranking fifth in the conference and was second on the team in kills.
Also back for her final season is senior setter Avalon DeNecochea, who enters this year ranked sixth in program history for career assists with 3,187. DeNecochea has started every match at setter for the Mustangs each of the last three seasons. Last year, she was second in the Big West in assists per set averaging 10.31 and was third on the team in blocks, digs, and service aces.
Other returners for the Mustangs include redshirt sophomore outside hitter Amy Hiatt who was third on the team in kills and fourth in blocks last year, sophomore middle blocker Kate Slack who was second on the team in blocks last season, and sophomore outside hitter Annabelle Thalken who had seven kills in three matches last year.
They will be joined by seven newcomers who will come in looking to make an impact. One of the most notable additions is that of junior libero Jolei Akima who made the move to transfer to Cal Poly after two years at Boise State. While with the Broncos, the Hawai’i native played in all 50 of Boise State’s matches during her two years, starting 20 of those at libero. Last season, she led the Broncos in digs and was tied for second in service aces while helping them win a Mountain West Championship. In her two years there, she recorded double-digit digs on 21 occasions.
Another notable addition is that of San Luis Obispo native Marina Warren. Warren, who also plans to play beach volleyball for the Mustangs, can play multiple spots in the lineup from opposite hitter to outside hitter to middle blocker. At San Luis Obispo High School, she was named All-Mountain League three straight years. She is the first Central Coast local to play for the program since 2016.
The Mustangs are coming off a third-place Big West finish in 2021. Cal Poly has finished in the top three of the Big West standings each of the last six seasons.
They will kick off their 2022 season August 26 on the road in Logan, Utah at Utah State. They will have 10 non-conference matches all away from the Mott Athletics Center. During that stretch they will play teams such as UCLA, Pepperdine, Washington, and Northern Colorado, all of whom made the NCAA Tournament last year.
The Mustangs’ first home match will be the Big West Conference opener Sept. 23 against Long Beach State at 7 p.m