Tristan Aird

As is the case with many sports sections, the Mustang Daily has had its sports staff vote on the top 10 sports stories of the year.

Seventeen stories were nominated in-house, after which six regular contributors to the sports section – sports editor Tristan Aird, assistant sports editor Frank Stranzl, online editor Ryan Chartrand, senior staff writer Devan McClaine, reporter Amanda Retzer and guest columnist John Middlekauff – filled out their ballots.

Here are the results:

1. Volleyball’s breakthrough season (55 points, three first-place votes)

It was a season-long coronation for Jon Stevenson’s bunch, which has rekindled the glitz and glamour of a program that was among the nation’s best in the mid-1980s.

This season, Cal Poly reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, in which it hosted a regional in sold-out Mott Gym. The Mustangs earned their first Big West title ever and first outright conference crown of any kind since 1984, went 23-6 for their most wins since going 31-8 in 1985, were 13-1 in the Big West, entered a national ranking for the first time since 1999, won a tournament match for the first time since 2000 and earned their first tournament berth since 2002.

To say people began to take notice is an understatement.

With an average of 1,611 fans in 10 home matches, Cal Poly outdrew the likes of UCLA (1,335 in 12 home contests) and USC (1,035 in 15), among other schools.

2. Softball’s breakthrough season (42 points, one first-place vote)

As the back page of the Mustang Daily proclaimed May 14, in the largest headline used all year, the Cal Poly softball team “FINALLY!” made the NCAA Tournament.

And the Mustangs did it by clinching their first Big West title ever, securing their first tournament berth since the school moved to the Division I level in 1994-95. Cal Poly (39-17) set program records for wins in a season and winning percentage (.696).

The Mustangs were 0-2 in regional play.

3. Lisa Modglin’s season-long dominance (40 points)

Cal Poly’s senior center fielder finished the regular season second nationally among all Division I players in batting average (.488) and slugging percentage (.951).

Modglin garnered more awards than any student-athlete on campus this year. She was named the school’s Female Athlete of the Year, Big West Player of the Year, a first-team All-American by both Easton and Louisville Slugger/NFCA, a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist and on and on.

But you wouldn’t know it from talking to her. The humble leadoff hitter will continue her career with the defending National Pro Fastpitch champion New England Riptide this summer.

4. Phillip Reid makes history in Northridge (35 points, two first-place votes)

Steve Scott is an icon in the running world. The former UC Irvine harrier competed in three Olympics after he set the Big West Conference Championships meet record in the 1,500-meter run in 1978.

Well, that record is no more.

Reid, Cal Poly’s Male Athlete of the Year, won the Big West race in 3 minutes, 42.54 seconds, erasing Scott’s mark by more than a second.

Reid, a junior, is one of three Mustangs who will compete at the NCAA Championships at Sacramento State from Wednesday through Saturday.

5. Men’s basketball’s breakthrough season (33 points)

It started out rather inauspiciously. The Mustangs were 6-8 and coming off a 17-point loss at a woeful San Jose State team that finished 5-25.

But then something special materialized.

Cal Poly rattled off wins in 13 of its final 16 games, went 19-11 for a Division I record for wins in a season, posted its best Big West winning percentage ever (.643), had its best record and most wins overall since going 19-9 at the Division II level in 1991-92 and went 12-2 at home.

The Mustangs had a lead with less than 13 minutes to play in the Big West tourney title game in Anaheim, but Long Beach State scored 40 points (yes, 40 points) in the final 9:45 to punch a ticket to March Madness.

6. Beat goes on for men’s cross country (27 points)

It was another year at the office for the Mustangs, who won their fourth straight Big West championship.

Cal Poly then finished 13th at the NCAA Championships, led by Reid’s 21st-place finish individually for All-American status.

7. Three Bucks in the wallet (22 points)

Kyle Shotwell edged James Madison’s Akeem Jordan in a battle of linebackers for the Buck Buchanan Award.

The award, which goes to the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision, was the third straight for Cal Poly after Jordan Beck and Chris Gocong won in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

It’s the first time any school has taken the award three years in a row.

And we’re talking about a prize that has been won in the past by NFL stars Dexter Coakley (1995-96), Ed Hartwell (2000), Rashean Mathis (2002) and Jared Allen (2003).

8. Football goes 7-4, misses playoffs (16 points)

With 32 wins in the last four years, Cal Poly’s 16 seniors capped a cluster of more victories in a four-year stretch than any other senior class in the 91-year history of the program.

The Mustangs also beat rival UC Davis for the first time since 2003 and knocked off a Football Bowl Subdivision team (San Diego State) for the first time since 2003.

Cal Poly, though, slumped after a 5-1 start that had it ranked as high as No. 3 in the FCS polls. The slide started with a 29-28 Homecoming loss to South Dakota State in which the Jackrabbits scored 23 points in the final 7:55 and continued with losses both close (10-9 at Montana) and embarrassing (51-14 at North Dakota State).

The Mustangs were able to take out those frustrations, though, in a 55-0 Senior Day thumping of Savannah State.

Don’t look now, but Cal Poly’s 2007 season opener at Texas State is less than three months away.

9. More Mustangs in the NFL Draft (15 points)

For the third year in a row, Cal Poly had a player chosen in the NFL Draft.

Cornerback Courtney Brown was tabbed with the second pick of the seventh round (212th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys.

Beck and Gocong went in the third round to the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.

For an FCS school to have three consecutive years with its name on the draft board says something.

Shotwell, who was a surprise undrafted free agent, signed a three-year contract with the Oakland Raiders immediately after the draft.

10. Beat goes on for women’s lacrosse (10 points)

The Cal Poly women’s lacrosse club team won its seventh straight Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates title.

The Mustangs won 16-9 over Navy – which will be an NCAA Division I program next year – in the championship game.

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