Cal Poly Women’s Soccer wrapped up week four of conference play with a 4-0 defeat to Hawai’i inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Oct. 19, followed by a 2-1 victory at Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 21.
Cal Poly (2-12-4, 2-4-1 Big West) now sits in seventh place in the Big West Conference and trails fourth place UC Davis (6-7-3, 3-2-1 Big West) by three points heading into the final week of the regular season. The top four schools will qualify for the Big West Championship beginning on Nov. 1.
The two results come after three consecutive double-overtime away matches in which the Mustangs could only secure one point, with a goalless draw at UC Riverside on Oct. 5. Overtime games have proven to be a challenge for Cal Poly this year, as eight different matches have extended past regulation time, seven of which continued into double-overtime. The Mustangs have yet to win an overtime match.
While Women’s Soccer has only secured two wins for the year, it is worthwhile to consider how the Mustangs’ strength of schedule may have hindered their chance at success. The Mustangs rank No. 18 in strength of schedule for 2018 out of all 335 Division I programs and are the only Big West Conference team in the top 20 for schedule difficulty.
Cal Poly’s match against Hawai’i on Oct. 19 resulted in their biggest loss of the conference season when Hawai’i midfielder Raisa Strom-Okimoto registered a hat-trick by the 50th minute. The 4-1 victory was the Rainbow Wahine’s first win over the Mustangs in eight previous match-ups.
Following the defeat, senior midfielder Sydney Knauer said she believes there is hope for the young team’s future.
“I just hope they progress as a team, play off one another, and get to know each other’s styles,” Knauer, who leads the Mustangs with three goals, said. “We’ve had some tough loses these past couple games and it’s unfortunate, but I still have hope in this team.”
“We’ve had some tough loses these past couple games and it’s unfortunate, but I still have hope in this team”
Cal Poly’s freshmen have had a substantial presence this year. While the lack of experience is testing, the young players look to take advantage of the opportunity to grow as a team. Coming into the Mustangs’ game against Hawai’i, eight freshman had combined for 74 starting appearances. Of the team’s newcomers, 11 out of 12 had already totaled 128 appearances for Cal Poly. In total, 24 different players have started at least one match for the Mustangs in 2018.
Head coach Alex Crozier also expressed hope for the team’s future, but was still focused on finishing the year strong.
“When we finished the game we had nine freshman on the field,” Crozier said. “They were all playing well, combining and connecting with each other. So looking forward, it looks good, but we need to finish the season out and win our last two games.”
In the following match against Cal State Fullerton (3-12-2, 0-5-1 Big West), the Mustangs did just that.
Two and a half minutes into the game, freshman forward Brooke Rubinstein dribbled into the right side of the Titans’ box and fired a low shot into the far post to beat Fullerton goalkeeper Allison Poole.
Cal Poly doubled its lead in the 51st minute when senior midfielder Kelly Kessloff volleyed a loose ball into the right corner of the net, securing her first goal of the season.
While Fullerton was able to cut the deficit in half in the 60th minute, the Mustangs’ defensive efforts in the final third of the match thwarted any chance of a Titan comeback and secured the 2-1 win.
Cal Poly junior goalkeeper Sophia Brown tallied six saves in the victory including two saves in the final 10 minutes of regulation time. Brown went into week four of conference play with the highest save percentage of any goalkeeper in the Big West Conference (.878) and currently sits at No. 3 in program history for amount of saves (270).
The Mustangs will close out their regular season in the Blue-Green Rivalry match against UC Santa Barbara at home, on Oct. 28 inside Alex G. Spanos stadium.