Kristina Santiago is back, and voters believe the Cal Poly women’s basketball team will be, too.
The Mustangs were chosen by a media poll to repeat as champions of the Big West Conference after the team captured the program’s first regular-season crown last year with its star senior sidelined with a torn ACL.
Tied with 11 first-place votes with UC Santa Barbara, who shared last year’s regular season Big West Championship, Cal Poly received 200 total votes to top the media poll, released Wednesday.
UC Santa Barbara followed with 191 points, and UC Davis, which won the Big West Tournament title by beating the Mustangs, was third with 169 points and the final two first-place votes.
Reigning Big West Player of the Year Rachel Clancy has moved on, but Santiago earned the same honor the prior season, when she led the conference in scoring (19.6 points per game), rebounding (8.5 per game), field goal percentage (.547) and steals (70) as a junior.
Despite redshirting last season, the senior forward from Santa Maria was selected to the preseason all-conference team.
Cal Poly’s Abby Bloetscher was also a preseason all-conference selection, but after injuring her knee in the offseason, the senior post player is expected to miss a big chunk of this season.
UC Santa Barbara’s Emilie Johnson, UC Riverside’s Tre’Shonti Nottingham, Cal State Fullerton’s Megan Richardson and Cal State Northridge’s Jasmine Erving comprise the remainder of the preseason team.
UC Riverside ranked fourth in the poll with 120 points, Cal State Fullerton (107) came in at fifth. UC Irvine (91), Pacific (66) and Long Beach State (63) rounded out the poll.
Cal State Fullerton 1, Cal Poly 0
Coming off Friday’s emotional last-minute upset victory over rival UC Santa Barbara, the Mustangs (6-6-2, 3-3-0 Big West) allowed a seventh-minute goal and fell to a Titans squad that was winless in its past five matches.
Unmarked less than 15 yards out, Jameson Campbell took a cross from Kevin Venegas and beat Mustangs goalkeeper Patrick McLain to clinch Cal State Fullerton’s first Big West victory of the season.
Jackson may play
Despite missing all but one play of the second half in Cal Poly’s 31-27 victory over Southern Utah with a foot injury this past week, All-American cornerback Asa Jackson could see the field Saturday when the Mustangs travel to North Dakota.
The senior was hurt on the opening kickoff of the second half and left the field with an injury to his right foot.
Receiving support from his Twitter followers, Jackson used the social media to detail the injury.
“I broke a small bone in it but I can play on it.” Jackson’s tweet to former Cal Poly wide receiver Dominique Johnson read. “So we will see how it feels by the end of the week.”
Jackson has started every game since his true freshman season, a streak that stands at 40 heading into Saturday’s game.
This season, Jackson has intercepted two passes and returned both for touchdowns. He’s averaging 15.4 yards on punt returns and 21.8 yards on kickoff returns and is third on the team with 38 tackles.
During Friday’s Big West showdown with conference-leading Long Beach State at Mott Gym, the Mustangs volleyball team will be accepting donations to benefit the family of Nipomo High graduate Delaney Lemus, who died in September after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Lemus was a four-year standout libero for the Titans and received all-county honors after her senior season in 2007.
Prior to 2009, when Lemus was diagnosed with Wilms’ tumor, a rare form of kidney cancer, she attended Cal Poly and played on the club volleyball team.
Friday the Mustangs will circulate pledge flyers for those interested in donating a sum of money for each dig they collect. The team usually nets between 60 and 90 per match.
Donors can also pledge a flat sum, and the program will also be taking donations Saturday when Cal Poly faces visiting Cal State Fullerton and setter Andrea Ragan, a former Nipomo standout and teammate of Lemus.
Proceeds are directed to the Delaney Lemus Benefit, which can also receive direct donations through Rabobank in Nipomo or San Luis Obispo.
More TV games for Cal Poly
The Cal Poly men’s basketball program announced two more broadcast dates to its schedule.
The Mustangs’ conference opener Jan. 2 against rival UC Santa Barbara will air live on CW5, and their regular-season finale March 3 will be shown on KSBY. Both feature 7 p.m. tipoffs.
The team previously announced televised games against Cal State Northridge (Jan. 21 at 5 p.m. on FSNPT) and the Gauchos (Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU).