Cal Poly men’s soccer made a 3-2 second-half comeback against UC Davis to lock up a top-4 spot in the Big West Conference standings on Sunday, Oct. 24 in the final home game of the regular season inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. 

“It was a game of two distinct halves,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “The first half I felt that Davis was the aggressor and they were more dominant in the air and physically and that’s the change that we made in the second half. We decided we can’t allow them to be the aggressor, so we became the aggressor by pressing higher up the field.”

Senior forward Emmanuel Perez scored a pair of goals in the Cal Poly (6-5-4, 4-1-3 Big West) victory and is now tied for 8th all-time in goals in Cal Poly program history with 16. 

“It’s a cool feeling for sure,” Perez said. “You know, obviously, I couldn’t have done any of it without my teammates, but it’s an accomplishment I’m proud of.”

UC Davis (7-9-1, 3-4-1 Big West) kicked off the match with an attacking drive, forcing a Mustang defensive error in the opening two minutes and leading to a goal in the 14th minute off a corner kick, giving the Aggies the early 1-0 lead..

12 minutes later, Perez rose up with a bouncing ball in the penalty box and scored his third goal of the season to even the score 1-1 off a corner kick that was assisted by senior defender Andrew Forth

However, the Aggies put themselves up on the scoreboard again in the 43rd minute with a powerful strike from the edge of the box into the bottom right corner of the goal. The 2-1 Davis lead would last into halftime

The drizzly weather conditions caused a slippery field, leading to players applying physicality and pressure, ending the first half with seven fouls a piece. The Mustangs led the half in possession with 53% compared to the Aggies’ 47%. 

“Playing in the rain, it’s way tougher than normal conditions, but I think the boys played really well,” junior goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado said. 

The tempo of the match shifted for the Mustangs in the second half as they immediately looked to even the score in the 50th minute with an unsuccessful shot by redshirt freshman defender Logan Thralls from outside the box that rolled into the keeper’s hands. 

Seven minutes later, Perez notched in his second goal of the afternoon and fourth of the season to even the score once again at 2-2. The goal came off another corner, this time assisted by Thralls. 

“I thought that [the players] responded very well to what I said at halftime,” Sampson said.  “They came out and played with a lot more energy, more passion and commitment to win the game.”

In the 64th minute, redshirt freshman forward Drew Patterson caught the keeper off his line and volleyed in a ball into the bottom left corner of the goal to put Cal Poly ahead for the first time at 3-2. The goal was assisted by senior defender Jackson Brady

“You know, we played good soccer and this is the type of game that shows that we can win championships,” Perez said.

Arce-Hurtado secured two goals late in the matchup, including a deflection on a shot in the top left corner to clinch the Mustang victory.

“I was so hyped up, I was really excited about seeing the team fighting every single minute,” Arce-Hurtado said. “In the end, I had to do my part and I’m proud of it and I’m just looking forward to the next game.”

Cal Poly closed out the game with four shots on target off of seven attempts compared to UC Davis’ six on goal from 11 attempts. UC Davis also committed more fouls with 16 compared to Cal Poly’s 15.

The Mustangs will look to close out the regular season on a strong note against CSU Bakersfield on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 7 pm on the Main Soccer Field.

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