The fiercest rivalry in college soccer will add a new chapter to its history on Sunday, Sept. 30 when the Cal Poly Mustangs host the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in another installment of the highly anticipated match of the Blue-Green Rivalry. For the players, it will be another nerve-wracking, but exciting, 90 minutes.
The Mustangs (3-4-1) will host the Gauchos (4-3) at 7 p.m. in Alex G. Spanos Stadium, which is expected to reach its maximum capacity of 11,075 people for the sixth-straight year.
Both teams will be facing off for the first time since last season, when the Mustangs defeated the Gauchos in a convincing 4-1 fashion. The Mustangs’ four goals were the most by a single team in a Blue-Green Rivalry match since 2001.
“Last year … that was just the best feeling having everyone rush the field, I mean only at Cal Poly do you really experience something like that,” senior forward Sean Goode said. “Just the fact that in San Luis Obispo, California, you get that type of crowd … that’s just phenomenal.”
This could be another match for the records, as 15 of the 22 largest NCAA non-tournament men’s soccer crowds of all-time feature the two teams. Last year’s home match was the 14th largest NCAA men’s soccer match of all time.
“This is not any other game,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “This is a game that I know these guys feel the excitement for … and there’s 10 to 12 thousand people stomping in the stands in preparation for the game. They feel that, so there’s very little I have to do to get them motivated for this game because these fans do it for us.”
With the crowd’s energy and schools’ close geographic proximity, it makes sense why the Blue-Green Rivalry is considered to be the number one rivalry in college soccer, according to College Soccer News. With 18 of the last 21 matches being decided by one goal or resulting in a tie, the electric atmosphere and competition on the field are some of the reasons why the attendance numbers at matches between Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara have consistently outranked any other college soccer match in the country.
“I’ve had teams play in the Rose Bowl, the Coliseum, in some of the biggest stadiums in the world, and one of the most exciting things for me is how the fans respond after we win the game,” Sampson said. “[A]s an international coach, I never got that feeling and I never saw that, so to participate in something like that is really special.”
The Mustangs don’t need to search for motivation ahead of Sunday’s match as the Gauchos lead the all-time series of this long-standing rivalry with a record of 25-14-8.
“There’s a joke on the team that I start playing well when Santa Barbara comes around,” senior forward Jared Pressley said. “I’ve had some of the best moments ever in my life in that game, so I’ll always cherish it.”
In 2015, Pressley scored a match-tying goal as a freshman with six seconds left in regulation and scored an insurance goal to secure the Mustangs’ 4-1 win last season.
“It’s going to be my first and last one [in San Luis Obispo], so I’m just going to enjoy it while I can,” Böehme said. “ I’m taking it as any other game, I think that’s how we should take it and I think we have a good chance to get a good result, so I’m just going to have the same approach as I always do.”
Böehme has experience playing in a Blue-Green match, recording three saves in Santa Barbara. However, a season-ending shoulder injury forced him to sit out of last season’s match in San Luis Obispo. For newcomers like Evans, who is fresh off the first goal of his collegiate career, this will be their first experience playing in the thunderous environment of a Blue-Green Rivalry match.
“As a freshman, you might think I’m nervous, but I’m really excited,” Evans said after starting in his eighth-straight game. “Coach Sampson has talked a lot about the rivalry and … I’ve only seen the videos of people storming the field after the game and the crowd going crazy, so the atmosphere is unbelievable and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Even though this is Evans’ first year on the team, and his first Blue-Green Rivalry match, the uniqueness of the experience is not lost on him or any of his teammates. For the Mustangs, it is a reminder of why they play the sport often referred to as “the beautiful game.”
“Just the sheer happiness … just all the hard work that’s gone into it and the love of the game. That’s why we get up in the morning,” Pressley said. “That’s why we’re here and that’s why I came to Cal Poly, for those moments, and I’m proud to be a Mustang.”
General Admission tickets are available GoPoly.com. Cal Poly students can pick up free tickets at the University Union Plaza and Performing Arts Center (building 6) throughout the week.