For the 3rd straight season, we will have a new head coach for Cal Volleyball. For the 3rd straight season, the new person in charge will have already spent time in Berkeley as an assistant coach under long time coach Rich Feller. Sam Crosson has been named the new head coach of Cal Volleyball after a successful run as the head coach at Cal Poly.
Crosson was an assistant coach under Rich Feller at Cal for the 2010 and the 2011 seasons, which included the very special 2010 season where setter Carli Lloyd was the best player in the country to lead the Golden Bears to the championship final, where they fell to Penn State. Since then, Crosson moved to Cal Poly to rebuild that program - winning back-to-back Big West Coach of the Year honor in turning the Mustangs from a losing team to a top-25 team and Big West champs for the past two seasons. Crosson’s Cal Poly squad was upset in the first round of the 2018 NCAA championship, however, as their top player, Big West Player of the Year, Torrey Van Winden was held out of that match due to concussion protocol. Crosson also produced another Big West Player of the Year in Taylor Nelson for the 2017 season. Cal Poly finished the 2018 season at 25-3 with a RPI of 23rd in the country and 22nd in the coaches’ poll.
At Cal, Crosson will inherit a squad that was just on the verge of returning to the postseason in 2018 had they won another match (or two to boost the RPI). Under interim head coach Jennifer Dorr, who took over the program with two weeks to go in 2017 when former head coach Matt McShane was unceremoniously placed on administrative leaves and then fired, Golden Bears turned a rocky start to the Pac-12 play into a very strong finish, upsetting a number of ranked Pac-12 opponents along the way in the 2nd half of Pac-12 play. Dorr, who experienced head coaching for only the first time in her career, will stay put as the associate head coach. I don’t expect there to be much of a change in the team personnel nor recruiting as the result.
For the 2019 season, Cal Volleyball will see the junior season of budding superstar in Mima Mirkovic. The 6-rotation outside hitter has easily been the top player for the Bears and will likely improve her all-around game during the beach volleyball season again. Bears will also get back some solid middle blockers in Lauren Forte and Preslie Anderson. As the opposite, Bailee Huizinga has another year of eligibility. Cal also have two experienced setters in current sophomore Isabel Potter and freshman Jade Blevins. The expectation for the program in 2019 is a return to the NCAA postseason, which would require at least treading water in the very competitive Pac-12 play, where each Pac-12 members has a strong volleyball program.
From the official release above:
Crosson served as an assistant at Cal from 2010-11 under longtime head coach Rich Feller, when the Bears made consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including an appearance in the national title game in 2010. The Bears also claimed the Pac-10 championship that season.
”I am thrilled that Sam Crosson has accepted our offer to become the head volleyball coach at Cal,” Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said. “Sam, who emerged from a deep and talented pool of candidates, is a proven leader with a track record of building successful programs the right way. He is deeply committed to developing student-athletes in the classroom, on the court and as future leaders. I look forward to Sam rejoining the Cal family in the New Year and returning our volleyball program to national prominence.”
In his 20 years of collegiate coaching experience, Crosson has become a pillar of Bay Area collegiate volleyball with stops at Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s, where he assisted both women’s programs. He began his coaching career as a men’s volleyball assistant at nearby Pacific, his alma mater. As a head coach, Crosson owns an overall record of 116-83, all with Cal Poly.
”I am truly honored and thankful for the opportunity to be the head coach for the Cal Volleyball program,” Crosson said. “I would like to thank athletic director Jim Knowlton and the rest of the Cal athletic administration for entrusting me to lead this program into the future. I look forward to returning to campus and beginning a new chapter in Cal Volleyball.”
Touted as a technician, Crosson was named the AVCA Pacific North Region and Big West Coach of the Year in 2017 after leading the Mustangs to their most successful season in program history with a 27-3 record. Cal Poly also picked up a Big West title after going undefeated in league play. Seven Mustangs earned all-conference honors and three were named AVCA All-Americans, as Cal Poly reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the Mustangs’ Taylor Nelson, who was one of 12 players selected to the U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team Thailand Tour in the spring of ‘17, was named Big West Player of the Year.
That same year, Crosson also led Cal Poly to its first sweep of perennial powerhouse Hawai’i since 1985, after a home win in front of the team’s first sellout crowd since 2006 at Mott Athletics Center, in San Luis Obispo.
Crosson followed up on 2017’s success this past season when the Mustangs earned their highest national ranking (11th) since 2008 and were just two wins shy of last year’s record, finishing 25-3. Cal Poly clinched the conference title, added six players to the All-Big West team and advanced to the postseason, while Crosson picked up his second consecutive conference coach of the year honor. The Mustangs closed the season ranked 22nd and produced a pair of AVCA All-Americans for Adlee Van Winden and Torrey Van Winden, who was also named the Big West Player of the Year. It was the second such honor for both sisters and the first back-to-back All-Americans for the program since 2010.
Crosson’s reputation as a great tactician bodes well for projecting his success in returning the Cal program to the level of perennial national championship contenders once he gets the Pac-12 caliber players. His long ties to the Bay Area should also be a big plus from the recruiting POV.
One potential negative in this hire may be that the program has again not look too far outside the box to get the new head coach. This is either a showing of how much influence recently retired former coach Rich Feller still has on the program. Nonetheless, Crosson has had much better track record as a head coach than Matt McShane had. There should be optimism that Cal Volleyball has turned the corner on its way back to national prominence.