Tony Ruiz (right) leads the team with two goals scored. Credit: Kayla Stuart | Mustang News, 2022

Cal Poly men’s soccer came from behind to defeat UC Irvine, 2-1, and earn its first win of the 2022 campaign on Sunday, Oct. 2 inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

For just the second time this season, the Mustangs (1-8-1, 1-0-1 Big West) produced multiple goals in a game. Cal Poly also outshot the Anteaters (1-9-1, 1-1 Big West) 13-12, with six shots on goal.

“We talked about putting the preseason behind us and learning from our preseason, and I think the boys are doing that now,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “This was a critical match for us from a psychological standpoint because It not only puts us in second place but makes us believe that we can put the preseason behind us and see if we can do something special.”

After the Mustangs sent out a starting lineup that had just five years of NCAA experience, UC Irvine struck first with a 19th-minute goal to slow down the young, high-tempo Cal Poly attack.

Cal Poly quickly responded when sophomore forward Jackson “Goose” Kestler found redshirt freshman forward Connor Lisenbee, who buried his first career goal in the 24th minute to tie the game at 1-1.

The difference came in the 33rd minute when junior midfielder Tony Ruiz launched a shot from outside the box into the corner of the net to put Cal Poly ahead 2-1. Ruiz’s goal was his team-leading second of the season.

“I was able to just put a good connection on the ball,” Ruiz said about the goal. “Felt good to help the team.”

At the half, the Mustangs held firmly onto their 2-1 advantage.

Staying on the attack, Kestler had a shot saved and redshirt freshman midfielder Richie Garcia rebounded with a shot of his own over the bar in the 50th minute. Five minutes later, Ruiz tried for his second goal of the night but missed to the left of the post.

The aggressiveness of the Mustangs kept the ‘Eaters on the defense in the second half, and Cal Poly held onto its 2-1 lead to capture its first win of the season.

After tying with UC Davis on Wednesday and defeating UC Irvine, Cal Poly finds itself in second place in the Big West standings with four points. The Mustangs only trail UCSB by two points early in conference play.

“We have to take one step at a time,” Sampson said. “We told ourselves a tie away from home is a good result, but we have to win at home, and so far we’re staying true to that.”

Cal Poly will look to keep the Big West momentum rolling when they travel to Fullerton to take on the Titans on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. inside Titan Stadium.