Last season, the Cal Poly women’s soccer team won the regular season title, earning it the right to host the tournament in 2014.
Sunday, the Mustangs (10-9, 5-3 Big West Conference) had a chance to repeat as regular season champions as they traveled to Cal State Fullerton to face the first-place Titans.
The Mustangs began the day two points out of the top spot, close enough for a victory to seal the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big West Conference Tournament and the right to host the 2015 tournament.
Sunday’s match was tight for all 90 minutes, but an 84th-minute goal by the Titans forced the Mustangs to settle for the No. 2 seed.
“Finishing second in the conference is still a great accomplishment,” head coach Alex Crozier said. “But, (it) leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and players are hungry to get after it again. I like where we’re at right now. I think we’re going to come out playing well on Thursday.”
On Nov. 6, the Big West Conference Tournament begins. The first match between No. 1 Cal State Fullerton and No. 4 Cal State Northridge begins at 5 p.m., while the second match between No. 2 Cal Poly and No. 3 Long Beach State is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m.
The Mustangs’ 2014 campaign had its ups and downs. The nonconference schedule featured difficult matchups scattered across the country, including visits to Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts. However, the toughest matches were in-state, against Pac-12 powerhouses California and Stanford, ranked No. 22 and No. 3 respectively, in the latest NCSAA rankings.
The Mustangs were actually ahead of the Golden Bears 1-0 at the half, but two second-half goals by California prevented the upset.
The Cardinal were undefeated after eight matches heading into the contest against the Mustangs and had not conceded a goal to that point. The Mustangs failed to do the seemingly impossible — score against the Cardinal — and lost 2-0, a respectable result.
Conference play did not feature the same success as last season, as the Mustangs went 5-3 against Big West opponents.
After a 1-2 start in conference, the Mustangs secured four straight victories before dropping the final match to Cal State Fullerton.
This season also featured the continuing dominance of a star, an anchor in goal and an additional attacking threat, all of which set records this season.
Junior forward Elise Krieghoff, the nation’s leading scorer last season based on goals per game, continued to add to her ridiculous goal record. She took the top spot on the Cal Poly all-time goals list in just her third season, notching 14 in the 2014 campaign. Krieghoff is also a candidate for the Hermann Trophy National Player of the Year award — women’s soccer’s highest honor, chosen by the Missouri Athletic Club.
Junior goalkeeper Alyssa Giannetti continued her dominance in goal. She has started every game in her three years at Cal Poly and is already No. 2 on the Cal Poly all-time saves list. Giannetti allowed just 23 goals in 19 games this season, including four shutouts.
The newcomer to the limelight in 2014 is sophomore forward Megan Abutin, who tallied a team-high 12 assists and was second on the squad with seven goals. Abutin’s 12 assists put her in ninth place in Division I and tied the women’s soccer program record set in 1997.
Nine Mustangs were selected to the All-Big West Conference women’s soccer team on Nov. 5. Krieghoff and Abutin were named to the first yeam, while sophomore midfielder Lydia Anderson, junior defender Robin Mertens and Giannetti were named to the second team. Honorable mentions went to sophomore midfielder Kendra Bonsall and sophomore defender Nicole Wheeler; and finally, defenders Gianna Rosati and Emily Hansen earned all-freshman honors.
Despite the individual records, Crozier will not consider the season a success unless the Mustangs make the NCAA tournament.
“Now we’re in a whole new season,” Crozier said. “It’s a two-game season, hopefully for us, that will get us into the NCAA tournament. That’s our goal now.”
The Mustangs’ match on Thursday is a rematch of the first conference game of the season. Cal Poly traveled to Long Beach State and took down the 49ers 3-0, an upset at the time over a team that had been previously ranked.
“They’re very good, they’re very technical, they’re well coached,” Crozier said. “It’s a battle, so you can’t take anything for granted.”