Cal Poly

Mohamed is top defensive player

Cal Poly linebacker Marty Mohamed, left, stops North Dakota’s Josh Murray during the Mustangs’ 22-21 win Nov. 6.
Cal Poly linebacker Marty Mohamed, left, stops North Dakota’s Josh Murray during the Mustangs’ 22-21 win Nov. 6.

Cal Poly linebacker Marty Mohamed was named the Great West Conference Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday, and five other Mustangs football players joined him in earning all-conference first-team honors.

Mohamed, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior from Brawley, led Cal Poly with 88 tackles. He also led the Great West this year with three interceptions.

Among Mohamed’s standout games this year were a 35-33 win over then-No. 1-ranked Montana, in which he had 15 tackles and an interception, and a 50-37 win at Old Dominion, in which he made a career-best 16 tackles and forced a fumble.

The other Cal Poly players selected to the first team were senior offensive lineman Will Mitchell, junior running back Mark Rodgers, senior defensive tackle James Chen, junior defensive end Gavin Cooper and junior cornerback Asa Jackson.

Jackson, a first-team choice for the third consecutive year, had been the league’s preseason pick for Defensive Player of the Year.

Jackson had 55 tackles and two interceptions this season, while Rodgers, after transferring from West Virginia, rushed for 882 yards and eight touchdowns on 127 carries. Cooper led the Mustangs with six sacks, while Chen occupied blockers in the middle of the Mustangs’ defense and also had 23 tackles, eight of which were for losses.

Cal Poly, which went 7-4, missing a likely national playoff bid by one game, also placed six others on the all-conference second team: junior fullback and former Templeton High star Jake Romanelli, senior receiver Dominique Johnson, junior offensive tackle Scott Winnewisser, junior defensive end Kyle Murphy, sophomore outside linebacker Kenny Jackson and senior offensive tackle Art Munoz. Senior safety Scottie Cordier and junior defensive tackle Erich Klemme both were honorable mentions for Cal Poly.

Tysson Poots, a senior receiver from conference champion Southern Utah, won the Great West Offensive Player of the Year award, while Thunderbirds coach Ed Lamb won coach of the year praise.

UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright was named the league’s rookie of the year, and South Dakota sophomore punter Cole Zwiefelhofer was the special teams player of the year.

Graven is Big West’s top freshman in volleyball

Cal Poly outside hitter Kristina Graven was named the Big West Conference Freshman of the Year.

Graven, a freshman from San Jose, led the Mustangs with 3.85 kills per set and averaged 2.92 digs. She also had 62 blocks and 20 aces on the regular season.

Cal Poly, which is hoping to receive an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament when the selections are announced Sunday, went from 9-20 a year ago to 22-7 this season, finishing in a second-place tie in the Big West standings.

Graven was joined on the all-Big West first team by sophomore middle blocker Jennifer Keddy and senior middle blocker Dominique Olowolafe.

Mustangs teammates Alison Mort, a senior libero, and Catie Smith, a junior outside hitter, were honorable mentions. There was no second team.

Olowolafe averaged 2.8 kills per set, hitting .342, while Keddy hit .364 to average 2.92 kills.

Big West champion Cal State Fullerton had the conference’s player of the year in senior middle blocker Erin Saddler, while the Titans’ Carolyn Zimmerman was named coach of the year.