SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly athletes are supposed to have no affection for Davis, one of their top rivals. But Molly Pon is a big exception to that rule.
Long before she was a starting outside hitter for the Mustangs, Pon was smashing volleyballs into the floor for Davis High.
She will be back in Davis on Saturday when Cal Poly is at The Pavilion to face UC Davis (9-9, 3-2 Big West Conference) at 7 p.m.
After Pon graduated from DHS in 2009, she moved south to San Luis Obispo, where she is a senior majoring in political science.
While the Blue Devils are now guided by Julie Crawford, longtime mentor Leigh Whitmire was the influential coach during Pon’s DHS heyday.
“The only coach I can really say I remember from playing in Davis is Leigh Whitmire,” Pon said. “She was a good coach, and I always liked playing for her.”
Pon picked up a lot of her experience by playing club volleyball, often traveling out of Davis to find the best competition.
“I think most of my experience in club, when I commuted, set me up for Division I play,” she said. “I played for maybe two or three years (in Davis) when I was really young, and then I always commuted for club.”
Unfortunately, her Mustangs have faced some struggles on the court this year. Cal Poly is 1-16 and has dropped 13 straight matches after defeating Idaho on Aug. 30.
Poly hopes to end that dubious streak at Pacific on Friday. But if it doesn’t happen then, Pon’s Mustangs might be able to break the skid in her hometown.
“I love playing UCD at home because I get to see my parents, and they get to watch me (compete),” Pon said. “My family gets to come out, so it’s just a fun atmosphere.”
The fact that one of Pon’s best friends, Caroline Mercado, is the Aggies’ starting libero just adds to the fun.
Though Mercado hails from Alameda, the two became fast friends while playing on the Golden Bear Volleyball Club in Berkeley.
The duo helped GBVC win a bronze medal in the 2008 Junior Olympics and a silver in 2009, but split up when Pon chose to head to Cal Poly.
“For me it was the mix of volleyball, the location — which is amazing — and academics,” she said. “SLO provides a lot of outdoor activities to do.”
When she wasn’t playing for Golden Bear, Pon often suited up for the Northern California Volleyball Club in Rocklin.
Her intense club experience made it easier for Pon to jump to D-I ball, though it still took a little while for her to understand how strong competition is at the highest level.
“All the good players are more concentrated, because they can go to any school,” she said. “So it just makes it a lot harder because … everyone’s really good all around.”
Pon plans to attend law school next year but which institution is still up in the air until she takes the LSAT.
With the rest of this year to enjoy San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly does not have a law program), Pon will make sure to work hard, play hard and relax easy.
“I spend a lot of time doing schoolwork and homework, but when I’m off the court I like to be with my friends and get outside,” she said. “(I like to) go to the beach, go on hikes, something fun.”
And what could be more fun than getting a much-needed win in front of her friends and family in Davis?
Notes: Pon was an All-Delta Valley Conference player for the Blue Devils as a junior in the fall of 2007. She suffered an injury and missed the second half of her senior year, but was still honored as one of the area’s top prep athletes by the Sacramento River Cats. … The Aggies will host UC Santa Barbara on Friday before welcoming Pon’s Mustangs on Saturday.