The next chapter of the Blue-Green Rivalry will continue tonight as the Cal Poly men’s soccer team goes on the road to face rival UC Santa Barbara in the Big West Tournament semifinals.
The game will be a familiar setting for the Mustangs who faced Santa Barbara once before at Harder Stadium for the Big West Tournament semi-finals in 2008. Cal Poly was able to tie the game 2-2 in the 78th minute with a goal from Patrick Sigler, but after two scoreless overtimes, lost to UC Santa Barbara in a penalty-kick shootout.
After 12 straight losses to the Gauchos between 2000 and 2007, the Mustangs were able to turn it around, posting a 2-4-3 record in the last three seasons and losing three games by one goal. But home-field advantage heavily favors UC Santa Barbara, leaving Cal Poly winless in the last 12 seasons at the Gauchos’ home stadium.
This year’s matchup between the two teams has resulted in close games with both Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara earning last minute wins. In its first match of the season in Santa Barbara, Cal Poly lost 2-1 in the 90th minute but when UC Santa Barbara came to San Luis Obispo, the Mustangs won 2-1 with an overtime goal from sophomore Chris Gaschen.
The Mustangs’ victory over the Gauchos was a crucial step toward Big West playoffs. In the beginning of its conference schedule, Cal Poly was winless in four straight matches, including a tie with last-place Cal State Northridge where Cal Poly dropped a 2-0 lead. This put the Mustangs out of a playoff spot mid-October.
But despite being in fifth place halfway through the season, head coach Paul Holocher said he was confident his team would make the playoffs.
“I knew we weren’t out of it and still had a great chance,” Holocher said. “In the games we lost, I was still happy with the way we played. We’ve been playing at a high-level, competing with Irvine and Santa Barbara.”
Scoring five goals in its first five conference games, Cal Poly was almost able to double its scoring output in its last five conference games with nine goals. The Mustangs’ late season offensive surge was led by seniors Junior Burgos and David Zamora. Burgos and Zamora combined for only one goal in the first 12 games of the season but have scored a combined seven goals in the last five games.
Zamora, who scored his 25th career goal at Cal Poly, matching Clay Harty (1995-96) in career goals for Cal Poly, said he is feeling more confident since his recent scoring streak.
“I’m feeling pretty confident going into Wednesday’s game,” Zamora said. “My job is to score goals and I’m glad I’ve been doing so.”
Even though it could be his last game at Cal Poly, Zamora said this game is just as important as every Big West playoff game he’s played in the past.
“In the last couple years, I played my hardest to win and extend the season for those seniors,” Zamora said. “This time I will still be playing my hardest to extend the season for myself and other seniors.”
Either way, Holocher said attendants will see a great soccer match.
“We have a lot of respect for (UC Santa Barbara) as a soccer team” Holocher said at Monday’s press conference. “We love the rivalry. We love the excitement it brings the community at both schools. You’ll see what you come to expect to see — a great soccer match.”
The winner will advance to the Big West Conference finals and play the victor of the UC Riverside versus Cal State Fullerton match. The game starts at 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium in Santa Barbara.