Despite a fourth consecutive top 3 Big West finish for the Cal Poly men’s soccer team, its season, and NCAA Tournament hopes, ended as the Mustangs lost in overtime to rival UC Santa Barbara in the Big West conference semi finals.
Even though they bested the Gauchos in a 2-1 overtime victory in their last regular season meeting, the Mustangs had huge obstacles to overcome going into their post season match in Santa Barbara. The Mustangs hadn’t won a Big West Conference tournament game since its creation in 2008 and had failed to defeat the Gauchos in Harder Stadium the past 12 years.
Cal Poly controlled much of the first half against Santa Barbara, out-shooting Santa Barbara 7-0 in 31 straight minutes including a go-ahead goal by sophomore Chris Bernardi in the 37th minute.
UC Santa Barbara was able to rally back and tie the game behind a goal from freshman David Opoku who scored with 18 minutes remaining, taking the 1-1 tie into overtime.
The Mustangs found themselves in a very familiar situation. Each of their last two Big West semi final games had gone into overtime, as well as six of their last eight matches against UC Santa Barbara.
The Gauchos managed to convert a goal in the eighth minute of overtime and go on to win the Big West Conference Tournament and secure their ninth consecutive NCAA Division I Championship invitation (leaving Cal Poly to rebuild for next season).
Cal Poly faced one of its most difficult schedules this season, the 15th toughest schedule among Division I programs in 2010. The Mustangs earned a 3-3-1 record versus programs that qualified for the 2010 NCAA Tournament, including victories over No. 14 Indiana, Denver and Santa Barbara, and a draw with No. 8 UCLA.
But the loss to UC Santa Barbara in the semi finals denied Cal Poly an invitation among the ranks of the top 48 teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
The end of this season also brought about the end of Cal Poly careers for point leaders David Zamora and Junior Burgos.
Zamora capped off his final year at Cal Poly with a record breaking season. He became the first Cal Poly soccer player to qualify four times as an All-Big West selection, and broke Cal Poly career records for points (64) and appearances (79) while tying for the all-time goal record (25).
Burgos, a member of the El Salvador Men’s National Team player pool, finished second on the team in scoring with three goals and also finished first with three assists.