An 84th minute strike by UC Davis forward Matt Wiesenfarth proved to be the deciding factor as Cal Poly men’s soccer (4-4-2, 1-1-0 Big West) dropped a 1-0 decision to the Aggies on Wednesday night at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Six minutes from full time Wiesenfarth gave UC Davis the lead, a breakdown in defense lead to a strong pass from the right side of the box from Aggie defender Brian Ford which Wiesenfarth collected on the near post and sent past senior goalkeeper Patrick McLain.
Sixth-year head coach Paul Holocher said the Mustangs’ lackluster performance on offense and mistakes in the back lead to their first defeat of the season in Big West Conference play.
“As a team, we didn’t deserve to win tonight,” Holocher said. “Davis was hungrier; they were the better team on the night. We gave up a critical goal, and on offense, we didn’t produce the chances tonight.”
The opening period saw five total shots on goal, including a 39th minute attempt on target by midfielder Chris Gaschen. The junior controlled a lob pass from 10 yards out on the left side of box, but his attempt on goal was turned away by goalkeeper Omar Zeenni.
UC Davis nearly took the lead at the one-hour mark as Aggie forward Kevin Schulte tried to take advantage of an out-of-position McLain, but his lob shot from range was stopped by senior left back Wes Feighner on the goal line. Seconds later, Feighner made another goal line save as he headed away an attempt by UC Davis midfielder Alex Henry.
The Aggies missed a golden opportunity to score seconds before their goal as Wiesenfarth weaved his way past the Cal Poly back line and the goalkeeper McLain for an empty net opportunity. But, the freshman rattled the point-blank attempt off the crossbar to keep the score level.
Wiesenfarth redeemed himself with the game-winning strike 26 seconds later. The goal was a product of the Mustangs’ lackadaisical defending, said senior forward Kyle Montgomery.
“It was a combination of not closing down quick enough and having poor cover,” Montgomery said. “It was a good cross on their part, and we were just caught unaware at the near post, and they slipped one in.”
The Mustangs furiously tried to even the score line in the dying seconds of the match. Feighner sent a lob pass into the area from the left edge of the box which senior defender Patrick Sigler managed to head toward goal, but it was stopped by the Aggie goalkeeper as time expired.
“They were a better team on the night,” Montgomery said. “We had the effort but we lacked the quality, both in front of goal and just around the entire field. Our passes were off, we weren’t winning second balls. I think that was the difference. We took mental breaks, and you could see it with the goal.”
Sophomore defender Jeff Strickland made his first collegiate start Wednesday night in place of senior defender Cameron Walters, who was deemed ineligible to play after being flashed a red card in last Wednesday’s match against UC Irvine. The change marks the first time in 26 matches that the back line of Sigler, Feighner, Connor Drechsler and Walters did not start together.
“Going into the game, I had a little nerves, but that calmed once I got in the locker room and my teammates talked to me and helped me get mentally and physically prepared,” Strickland said. “Not the result I wanted for my first start, but we’ll learn from it.”
The Mustangs managed to hold UC Davis without a shot until the 44th minute, but it was the Aggies who held the final advantage (11-9) on the night. For the fourth time this season Cal Poly failed to register a goal.
With the loss, the Mustangs sit in 5th place in the Big West standings — three points ahead of UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Fullerton. The Mustangs have yet to win two consecutive conference matches to start the season in eleven years.
Cal Poly’s next match comes against UC Riverside on Sunday Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.