For the first time in the 43-year history of the Cal Poly Pomona volleyball program, three All-Americans have been selected in the same season.
For All-Americans Daisy Duke, Samantha Campion and Caitie Mueller their accomplishments could not be done without the help of each other and their teammates.
All three players have been able to stand out on the leaderboard this season. Duke proved to be an efficient attacker, leading the team in points per set with 4.38, making her the second most efficient attacker in the league.
Campion delivered 42 service aces for the Broncos and finished in the top ten in the conference in both service aces and kills per set.
Mueller, meanwhile, was an integral part of CPP’s offense, providing an impressive 1,097 assists during the 2023 season. After picking up her second All-American award, she called it a “team award.”
“It just is a testament to the hard work our team’s putting in,” said Mueller.
The team as a whole outranked its opponents in kills, assists and defense. The team also made significantly fewer reception errors than their competition.
“We’re a pretty close team in general, so being able to have any type of honor, any type of award with your teammates is amazing. They’re like sisters to me, so it’s really cool to have that recognition of all of our hard work altogether.”
Duke, who has earned the All-American title for a third consecutive season, shared similar sentiments. She expressed that it all starts with her teammates.
“It really is like a team effort because it’s like the first ball, someone passes it and then if they get a good pass, that helps set up set up the setter and then if the setter has a good pass, they’ll be able to give me a good set and from there it’s just a collective work,” said Duke. “So, I definitely feel like my teammates are huge contributors to my awards.”
Campion noted that the honor has been a long-time career goal, so to win it with Duke and Mueller, who she considers “some of [her] best friends on the team” makes it all the more memorable.
Although the volleyball team has had much success, the path there isn’t always easy.
According to Mueller, each season comes with difficulties that they face both individually and as a team. What makes them stronger is their ability to push past the difficulties.
Duke explained that her last season was off to a rocky start. At the end of the preseason, she sprained her ankle and was unable to play the first two weeks of the season.
“At first, I was really mad and frustrated because it was my last year, but it really just taught me to want to get better because of how much I love the sport,” Duke said.
She said that she was also motivated to heal for her teammates, as injuries could change the team dynamics.
“Once one person is out it affects everyone else because we’re short on one person in practice, and of course their energy and their vibe is removed for that day,” Duke said. “Everyone is a contributor to the team.”
All three players have been involved in the sport since childhood. Mueller and Campion both shared that being so immersed in the sport has taught them to explore their identity outside it.
Mueller voiced that as a Christian, she finds her identity in her faith and has used it to navigate the sport.
“Over the years, you know, you go through ups and downs of how you’re playing, or if you’re playing a lot, if you’re playing a little, if you’re playing well,” said Muller. “And to be able to have a constant that I know who I am outside of volleyball, that’s something that I’ve learned over the years.”
For Campion, exploring her identity outside of volleyball came after a stress fracture in her navicular bone during her senior year of high school left her out of the sport for two and a half years, which led to the development of an eating disorder.
“I think that was the biggest time for my mental growth and the biggest hump of being able to separate my identity from volleyball and my identity as a person,” Campion said. “They can coincide, but they’re also very separate.”
She stated that to this day it is one of the biggest challenges she’s faced both as an athlete and a person, but the experience also allows her to connect with others.
“Being able to come out on the other side, I think I’ve just learned so much and grown so much,” Campion said. “And that’s one thing that I like to talk about and share my story with other athletes and people, because I think body image is a big thing for female college athletes. So that’s been a big thing that’s really helped me connect and build relationships within the sport.”
Head coach Traci Dahl complimented all three players and their determination in the sport and explained what the history-making awardees make her feel as a coach.
“I think it’s an honor—it’s an honor to be their coach, it’s an honor for this to be the first time in the program’s history,” Dahl said. “We’re trying to definitely make some strides with the program and every year we just keep on getting better and better so I’m really proud of them that they were recognized nationally that’s always a tough thing to happen and to have three people recognized is amazing.”