by Jac Coyne | MCLA.us
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- What were your expectations for Cal Poly last spring? With its painfully young roster, a rookie head coach and a rugged conference, it appeared the Mustangs might be in for a slight regression.
Nope. Cal Poly was a triple overtime loss to Grand Canyon from running the table heading into the MCLA National Championships powered by Under Armour, and marched all the way to the title contest before bowing to Chapman, 9-5.
Now expectations are sky-high for the 'Stangs, and it appears the team is serious about making another big run. How serious? Serious enough to keep stats at their intrasquad scrimmage, tweet them out, and then screen-grab the tweets for Instagram.
White beats Green 9-8 in OT! #fallball #lacrosse
A photo posted by @calpolylacrosse on
That's some serious stuff.
Cal Poly must deal with the premature departure of All-American attackman John Corbolotti and his 57 points, but the defense -- which was truly the Mustangs' driver in 2016 -- returns intact, led by mobile netminder Sean Pihl.
The Mustangs are the clear favorites to win the WCLL bid and also have the strength of schedule to lock up an at-large bid if necessary, but getting to nationals is just the start. The expectation is clearly to be playing on championship Saturday again.
Team: Cal Poly
2016 Record: 17-2
Conference record/finish: 7-0 | WCLL Champion
Head Coach: Bobby Dabrieo (2nd year)
Daniel Wessel -- The defensive midfielder was a captain, first team all-WCLL and third team All-American. Wessel was a tremendous leader both on and off the field. His grit, leadership and physicality will surely be missed.
John Corbolotti -- He was first team all-WCLL on attack last spring and a third team All-American. Corbolotti was the second-leading scorer for the Mustangs (30g, 27a) last spring as a sophomore.
Sean Pihl -- The senior goalie posted a 64.9 save percentage in 2016 as one of the team's captains. Pihl was the backbone of a defense that held opponents to less than six goals per game, earning him WCLL Defensive Player of the Year honors and second team All-American. He is the Mustangs' on-field leader and great in the clearing game.
Gideon Baum -- A first team all-conference and All-American selection on defense, Baum snagged 42 ground balls and consistently shut down the opposing team’s best attackman in 2016.
A.J. Guralas -- The sophomore attackman was first team all-WCLL and HM All-American as a rookie. Guralas burst onto the scene scoring 50 goals and adding 10 assists during his freshman campaign to lead the Mustangs. He’s a former USBOXLA player who has developed excellent shooting and finishing skills.
Best moment of 2016
Winning the WCLL Championship was nice, but beating the defending national champions (Grand Canyon) for the opportunity to play in the national title game was incredible.
Biggest challenge facing us in 2017
Playing disciplined lacrosse for four quarters will certainly be a challenge and point of emphasis again this season. We’ll be playing a lot of quality opponents, therefore consistent execution will be crucial to our success.
Why the Mustangs will be better in 2017
We have a plethora of talented, committed players returning along with a talented freshman class that has created competition at nearly every position. Although we went 17-2 last season, it took a while to get acclimated to our system and coaching philosophies. With a full season and fall ball under our belts, we’ll look to hit the ground running in February.
Coming up a game short of our goal last season has provided plenty of motivation for 2017. With the best goalie in the MCLA and the entire defense returning, we’ll lean on our defense to be our strength again this season. Offensively we’ll be young, but certainly won’t lack talent and athleticism. We have a schedule loaded with tough opponents along with multiple two-game weekends, which should prepare us for postseason play.