The Cal Poly men’s soccer team defeated UC Santa Barbara 3-2 in sudden-death overtime for its first Blue-Green Rivalry win in three years.
With the score knotted up at 2-2 in the 104th minute, junior defender Jack O’Connor curled a corner kick into the box. Junior defender Kody Wakasa crashed toward the near post and met the ball with his head, sending it airborne into the back of the net. Wakasa’s game-winner was the first goal of his collegiate career.
“Just this whole game was a battle,” Wakasa said. “Every time I go up for corners, I’m just telling myself ‘get something on it, get something on it.’ I scored a goal with Jack (O’Connor) serving a ball in the spring and so I just had a feeling. And I just went near post cause I know he loves to hit near post runs. (I) literally hit it, just saw the ball go (to the) back of the net. The rest I don’t remember.”
A 11,075-fan sellout crowd — the 12th largest in NCAA men’s soccer regular season history — rocked Alex G. Spanos Stadium as the rivalry’s signature tortillas flew and the whistle blew for the game to begin.
Just more than 6 minutes into the game, UC Santa Barbara’s Ismaila Jome silenced Cal Poly’s home crowd with a curling shot from the top of the box that found the top right corner of the goal. The goal, assisted by Kevin Feucht, marked Jome’s second goal of the season and sent the Mustang Manglers into an eerie silence.
The Mustangs didn’t take long to respond.
In the 10th minute, junior forward Justin Dhillon dribbled into the box before passing the ball to junior defender Ruben Duran. Duran’s first touch swiftly tapped the ball along the ground past UC Santa Barbara’s goalkeeper for the equalizer.
Over the next 20 minutes, both teams traded attacks. Cal Poly senior goalkeeper Wade Hamilton highlighted the scoring draught with a diving save in the 24th minute to thwart a UC Santa Barbara attack.
Six minutes after Hamilton’s save, the Mustangs’ offense struck again.
Senior midfielder Matt LaGrassa’s 30th minute through pass found senior defender Kip Colvey, who fired a rocket off a defender’s foot and into the upper right corner of the net.
As the clock drew closer to the 45-minute mark, the Gauchos found an equalizer of their own. First, Gauchos star forward Nick DePuy drilled a shot off the left post that deflected back out onto the pitch. Then, UC Santa Barbara’s Seo-In Kim took advantage of a corner kick in the 39th minute as he muscled through Hamilton and headed in his first goal of the season.
The rest of the half remained scoreless, and the teams went into halftime in a 2-2 draw. The four goals scored in the first half marked only the second time since 2009 that there were four goals scored in an entire match between the Mustangs and Gauchos.
At half, the Mustangs trailed the Gauchos 10 shots to seven, but had only committed five fouls compared to the Gauchos’ 11.
The second half began with both teams playing tentatively. The first bout of action came 7 minutes into the half when UC Santa Barbara’s Kevin Feucht was awarded a yellow card for a hard foul near midfield.
As the half dragged on, several shots from the Mustangs and Gauchos couldn’t find the back of the net.
The Gauchos mounted a strong attack in the 79th minute. Two UC Santa Barbara corner kicks threatened the Mustangs, but after a valiant Cal Poly effort, the attack fell short. Three minutes later, DePuy fielded a cross in the middle of the box and made a shifty move on a Cal Poly defender before booting a shot that just sailed by the left side of the goal.
With 1 minute remaining in regular time, UC Santa Barbara’s Geoffrey Acheampong tried to capitalize on another Gauchos attack. Acheampong’s shot rolled toward the bottom right corner of the goal, but was stopped by a diving Hamilton.
Regular time ended in a tie with both teams sitting at two goals apiece. UC Santa Barbara outshot the Mustangs by a count of 20-10. Hamilton tallied four saves in the first 90 minutes, his second-highest total of the season.
After a 4-minute break, the 10-minute period of extra time began. It marked the teams’ eighth overtime match since 2008.
Two minutes into the extra time, the Gauchos pressed an attack on the Mustangs. Two shots fired toward the goal, but Hamilton recorded another save and the other shot was stopped by the Mustangs’ defense.
In the 9th minute of extra time, UC Santa Barbara’s Josue Espana received a yellow card for physical play after a hard shove to the back of Cal Poly junior midfielder Austin Wilcox sent him diving face-first into the turf.
The first overtime concluded with no scores and remained a 2-2 tie.
Just under 2 minutes into the second period of extra time, Cal Poly fans got something to cheer about. UC Santa Barbara’s Espana was called for his second yellow card in 3 minutes of play, resulting in a red card. Police escorted Espana from the field as the Mustang Manglers found their second wind.
As play resumed, the Mustangs found their second wind as well. More than 103 minutes into the game, they found their game-winner.
As Wakasa’s header met the net, Alex G. Spanos Stadium immediately erupted. Fans poured onto the field in cheers of excitement as the Mustangs won their first match over UC Santa Barbara since 2012.
After the game, first-year Cal Poly head coach and former United States Men’s National Team coach Steve Sampson summed it up by saying: “I’ve seen a lot of college soccer games in my career … and that may be one of the best games I’ve ever seen.”
Cal Poly’s three goals in the match was the first time in more than a year that the Mustangs have scored three or more goals in a conference match.
Sampson also noted that the Mustangs’ defense played extraordinarily well, holding the Gauchos scoreless after the first half and containing DePuy, perhaps the Big West Conference’s premier soccer player.
“Give credit to three people in particular: Kody Wakasa, Trenton (Matson) and Austin (Wilcox),” he said. “Always two players on (DePuy). (DePuy) wasn’t able to turn … He earned that respect from us. He’s, I think, one of the best players in the country, so to hold him scoreless is a great feat.”
The men’s soccer portion of the Blue-Green Rivalry continues next Saturday in Santa Barbara with a 7 p.m. kickoff. Both teams will look to repeat the quality and intensity of this game.
“I don’t think they’ll change anything,” Sampson said. “I think it’s just going to be one more incredible game.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the final goal was scored in the 113th minute. It was the 104th minute.