Junior forward Emily Nedom (17) scans the field in Cal Poly Women's Soccer 2-1 loss to Cal State Fullerton Credit: Alice Sukhostavkiy

A last-minute score by junior midfielder Peja Balanon wasn’t enough for Cal Poly Women’s Soccer to come back against Cal State Fullerton, as the Mustang lost 2-1 on Thursday, Sept. 28 at Mustang Memorial Field.

This game was the Mustangs’ (3-5-2, 1-1-0 Big West) first of a two-game homestand and their conference home opener.

Mustangs junior forward Emily Nedom put pressure on the Titans’ (3-4-6, 1-1-2 BW) defense early, with two shots on goal in the first five minutes.

The Mustangs dominated shots taken and possession for most of the game, leading the Titans by a total of 22 shots to six. 

“We had a lot more shots than them but it’s just about putting it away,” Balanon said.

Both of the Titans’ two first-half shot attempts were within a minute of each other, the first being blocked 32:31 into the game and the second sailing high over the net.

The pace picked up late in the first half, highlighted by multiple Mustangs shots on goal, none of which found the back of the net. Senior midfielder Kate Reedy and freshman defender/forward Bailey Bracha both had strong attempts on goal during a push in the 37th and 38th minutes.

The Titans opened the scoring just one minute and 54 seconds into the second half, with Titans’ freshman forward Kaylee Noble.

Both teams began the second half aggressively on offense. The Mustang offense had unsuccessful drives with shot attempts from Reedy, graduate student midfielder/forward Whitney Wiley and freshman midfielder Sophia Moness early on.

Freshman midfielder Sophia Moness (10) directs the Mustangs in a 2-1 loss to Cal State Fullerton. Credit: Alice Sukhostavkiy.

Noble scored for a second time just under 12 minutes later to put the Titans up by two scores early in the half.

Only two of the six Titans shots were on target, but both got past 2022 Big West Goalkeeper of the Year Mackenzie Samuel.

Despite dominating the shots on goal yet again throughout the second half, the Mustangs struggled to finish scoring drives on the Titans’ goalkeeper Ranson, who finished the game with nine saves on 10 shots on goal.

In a final push, Balanon scored the first goal for the Mustangs, assisted by sophomore forward/midfielder Jessie Halladay and freshman forward Annika Smith with less than a minute left. It was her first of the season and the fourth of her college career.

“At the end it got kind of crazy, we were playing with three in the back so we were all trying to press. Jessie [Halladay] just passed me the ball, a great ball, very unselfish, and I just put it in the back of the net,” Balanon said.

Cal Poly was unable to score again with the time remaining, moving their conference record to 1-1 with all conference games remaining in the season.

“Credit to the whole group, when you score a goal with one minute left that says a lot about your spirit,” assistant coach Scott Williams said. “For us, if we do what we do really really well, then I think we’ll be okay in every game that we play.”

The Mustangs’ next match will be against UC Riverside on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 12 p.m. at Mustang Memorial Field.