The 2008-09 season set the bar high in the world of Mustang athletics.
Football took the Great West for the third time in five years, men’s soccer made it to the NCAA tournament and baseball clinched the first NCAA regional berth in school history. Plus, who could forget Cal Poly football vs. Wisconsin, a game that has the potential to go down in the record books as the biggest game in Cal Poly athletics history, even if the Mustangs lost.
While there was no Regional Berth or Great West championship, there were a few games that stood out in their own right.
Women’s soccer vs. UCSB — Nov. 8, 2009
The Mustangs were seeded first going into the Big West tournament to face the Gauchos who were seeded third. And for the third time in five years, Cal Poly’s season ended on penalty kicks.
“We had some odd luck,” Cal Poly head coach Alex Crozier said.
Like the men’s soccer “Blue-Green Rivlary,” women’s soccer also share a Central Coast rivalry against the Gauchos, so losing to them on penalty kicks is something that the players did not take lightly.
“They are our biggest rivals and it was at home so it was definitely a big game,” junior Mckenzie Orand said.
Though they did not get the win, there were great plays throughout the game by the Mustangs, including great effort by senior forward Morgan Miller, who scored her fifth goal of the season and the first of the game in the 39th minute.
“Everybody was high-fiving and everyone went crazy when we saw it again on the jumbo screen,” said senior forward Monica Hemenez, who had to watch from the stands after suffering from a knee injury.
The intensity picked up after that goal, Miller said. The hits got harder, and everyone was fighting for the win.
Then at the 69th minute UCSB’s Katy Roby scored the tying goal.
“Up to that point, we had had a few chances to put the game away, and just couldn’t,” Crozier said.
With little time left in the match, the Mustangs didn’t want to give up, but it was a heartbreaking moment, Hemenez said.
“We just broke down. But we knew there were only a few minutes left so we had to push it … It was really unfortunate,” Orand said.
The match stayed at a 1-1 tie, leading to penalty kicks when Whitney Sisler missed her first shot. At this point, the Mustangs’ only chance was to hope for a UCSB player to miss one or more of their shots.
“I couldn’t watch at that point… We were all on the edge of our seats,” Hemenez said.
But yet again penalty kicks were not kind to the Mustangs, Crozier said, as not a UCSB player missed a shot.
“Obviously we don’t want a match to be decided like that,” Hemenez said.
The Mustangs will be looking for redemption when they face the Gauchos again in 2010 on Oct. 29.
Men’s soccer vs. UCSB — Nov. 4, 2009
When these two teams meet, it’s never easy to predict fan conduct. Between the tortillas, plastic bottles or other random objects that seem to end up on the field, fans are usually colorful when either Cal Poly or UC Santa Barbara score. This day, however, with 9,824 fans in attendance, there were no celebrations — the game ended in a 0-0 tie after two overtimes.
Both teams came out full force, especially on defense.
“We are two of the top teams in the conference, people want to watch,” Gauchos head coach, Tim Vom Steeg said.
This draw was the fourth between the two teams to reach double overtime and the third to end in a tie. As for attendance, the crowd total was the second-highest total in Cal Poly history. Four of the Top-10 NCAA history crowd totals have been tallied in a Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara match — all coming in the past two-plus seasons.
“We love the support, it is awesome to have school support,” Cal Poly senior forward David Zamora said.
Both teams missed vital opportunities to overtake the other with a few missed shots on goal and bad breaks for each squad.
This included shots by Zamora narrowly missing the goal post and close saves by Santa Barbara goalie, Sam Hayden.
This game brings notoriety to the conference, something that Cal Poly coach Paul Holocher said he finds very important.
“It’s a very healthy rivalry, and this game brings out some of the best soccer fans in the nation,” Holocher said.
With both goalies giving an excellent effort in the match, the scoreless game became the third tie in Cal Poly versus UCSB history within the last five matches.
The draw caused the Gauchos to clinch the top seed, with the Mustangs ending the regular season seeded second.
Men’s basketball vs. UCSB — Feb. 27, 2010
The men’s basketball team faced its rival UC Santa Barbara after losing in a previous matchup 57-80. Redemption was on every Mustangs’ mind as they stepped foot in Mott Gym.
Despite playing a team bound for the NCAA tournament, Cal Poly came up with the win during a tough game with a final score of 60-57 — in front of 3,032 fans in attendance.
“We were so excited, and with such a large crowd, you feed off the energy,” forward David Hanson said.
When asked whether or not this game was big for Cal Poly athletics last year, head coach Joe Callero said it was, but also gave credit to all of the other teams that had big wins last year, including football and men’s and women’s soccer.
“It was certainly one of the biggest games of the year,” he said.
At halftime the Mustangs were down by six, something Callero said he was very happy with — considering that in the first matchup earlier that season, his team was down by 20 at the break.
“I knew that if we kept it pretty tight until halftime that we had a pretty good chance to win it,” Callero said.
Despite only making nine of 35 three-point shots and posting a 31.6 percent field goal shooting, the Mustangs managed to keep the game close.
“We won the hustle plays and gave 100 percent. We knew that if we kept playing hard we could win,” Hanson said.
With 5.5 seconds left in the game, Hanson was fouled. This sent him to the free throw line with the scoreboard reading 58-57 in the Mustangs’ favor.
Hanson sunk both of his free throws and said that it really felt good especially after missing free throws during the Riverside game a few weeks prior.
“This was an opportunity for him to redeem himself and I was so happy for him as a coach, and the team was so excited for him as well,” Callero said.
After the free throws, Cal Poly held on to its win. Despite playing a less than perfect game, both Hanson and Callero said they played with more energy and enthusiasm.
“We will take a victory any way we can get it,” Callero said.
This win builds confidence for the squad, Callero said, showing that the team is capable of beating a conference favorite.
Football vs. South Dakota State — Oct. 3, 2009
The Mustangs’ football squad finished 4-7 in regular season play in 2009 but despite that, they did have a few impressive performances. One in particular was the matchup against South Dakota State.
The defensive side of the ball took control with outstanding plays by linebackers Marty Mohamed and Carlton Gillespie, and cornerback Asa Jackson to lead the team to a 21-14 win.
“The defense carried us to victory,” Jackson said.
Both head coach Tim Walsh and Mohamed said it was a game they will always remember as a well-played defensive game.
“We played excellent, one of the best that we played all year,” Mohamed said.
With the game deadlocked at 14-14 in the fourth quarter, Mohamed sacked Jackrabbits quarterback Thomas O’Brien, allowing Gillespie to recover the football for what ended up being the winning touchdown.
“That was one of the most memorable experiences for me, especially because I was so happy for (Gillespie); he’s definitely one of my buddies and I was happy he got that touchdown,” Mohamed said.
The game was a battle between two very good defenses, as the offense did not play as well, Walsh said. The defense made the win happen for the squad.
“We were playing a difficult schedule and we couldn’t afford to lose, and the defense really stepped up,” he said.
Offensively, Cal Poly quarterback Tony Smith connected on 13 of 24 passes for 131 yards with one interception. As for the Jackrabbits, O’Brien — who entered the game after starting quarterback Ryan Crawford was injured — completed 13 of 22 passes for 98 yards and was intercepted by both Jackson and cornerback Scottie Cordier.
Walsh said that although the offense did not have their best performance, they still did their part. It just happened to be a great day to be a defensive player for the Mustangs.
“If we would have played the way we played (during this game) all year, we would have had a much better record,” Walsh said.
However, despite a great showing against the Jackrabbits, the Mustangs could not come up with the wins needed during the rest of the season, especially on the road. But Walsh said he believes the amount of depth was the biggest issue, blaming the physical nature of the game on why they could not play the same way they played against South Dakota State in every game.
Jackson and Mohamed both said winning that game was a great confidence boost for going into the 2010 season. Yet Coach Walsh said he viewed it as purely a learning experience but does not expect it to affect the team when they play the Jackrabbits again this upcoming season.
“What you did last year is what you did last year. We are looking forward to a better season this year,” Walsh said.