Cal Poly fell to UC Davis 1-0 in their Big West Conference opener on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at Spanos Stadium. In the 64th minute, the Aggies (7-3-1) scored the lone goal of the game with a header by defender Luke Hazel directly off a corner kick by forward Adam Mickelson.
The Mustangs dropped to 4-5-1 as the Aggies gained their second win against Cal Poly out of their last six meetings.
“There’s so many positive things I’m seeing out there,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “[However], you have to make their goalkeeper make saves. That’s the final piece. Obviously that’s the most difficult piece, but that’s the final piece.”
Cal Poly had an opportunity to score in the first half of the game as senior forward Diego Alonso and graduate student midfielder Robert Knights connected several passes with each other inside the box. However, the two were unable to pull the trigger for a shot on goal. The first half also saw a shot fired by top goal-scorer and junior midfielder Emanuel Perez, who has scored seven goals in the last seven games. Aggie goalie Wallis Lapsley blocked the shot to maintain the draw at 0-0.
The match remained tied throughout the rest of the first half as UC Davis and Cal Poly unsuccessfully attempted eight combined shots. Both Lapsley and Mustang sophomore goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado produced one save.
In the second half, UC Davis attempted five shots as Cal Poly mirrored their opponent with five shots of their own. A corner kick by UC Davis in the 64th minute provided the game-winner as Hazel positioned himself behind the Mustang defense to convert the header into the right side of the net. Arce-Hurtado dove for the save, but the ball crossed the goal-line before being blocked.
“Sometimes it comes down to one action, and I think that is what the difference was,” Sampson said. “[UC Davis] had their one action and they scored on the corner.”
Cal Poly ultimately outshot UC Davis 10-8, but the Aggies capitalized on one of three corner kicks. Despite the loss, Alonso had positive things to say about how the team played and pointed out Cal Poly’s strengths during the game.
“I think we held the ball very nicely,” Alonso said. “We obviously out-possessed [UC Davis] the whole game. But like I said, we have to be more clinical in the final third to make sure the ball goes in the back of the net.”
Similarly, Sampson remarked on Cal Poly’s strong potential for the rest of conference play and praised his team’s ability to move the ball successfully.
“It’s literally the best soccer that one of my teams has played here in five years,” Sampson said. “It is the best soccer. Having said that, in the final third we got to have people that are dominant and much more aggressive.”
Cal Poly is on the road for their next conference match against the UC Riverside Highlanders on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.