After scoring the first goal of the match, it looked like the Cal Poly men’s soccer team was well on its way to a semifinal victory over Cal State Fullerton and their first ever berth into the Big West Conference Championship.
But the Titans (12-7-1, 6-3-1 Big West) went on to score three unanswered goals, earning their way into the conference final against UC Santa Barbara with a 3-1 victory over the Mustangs (11-4-5, 5-1-4 Big West) on Wednesday.
The Mustangs’ freshman forward George Grote started the scoring with his goal in the 30th minute. The first collegiate goal for Grote gave Cal Poly the early lead — a lead the Mustangs held for just more than six minutes. The Titans capitalized on a penalty kick opportunity in the 36th minute. Cal State Fullerton’s Julian Okai scored the equalizer, his third goal of the season.
Cal Poly went into halftime tied with the Titans at one goal apiece. With a win giving them the opportunity to compete in the conference championship, some sort of offensive output was required in the second half.
But the Mustangs fell flat and Fullerton took advantage.
In the 51st minute, Cal State Fullerton forward Diego Sanchez put his team up by one with a strike past the hands of Cal Poly’s senior goalkeeper Wade Hamilton. It was Sanchez’s seventh goal of the season and not his last on the night. He scored again in the 69th minute, cementing a lead that stood for the remainder of the game.
While the loss is disappointing for head coach Steve Sampson and his squad, it will likely not be the end of the season for the Mustangs. Coming into the match ranked 28th in the recent RPI polls, it is likely that Cal Poly will receive an at-large bid for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
But with their next match still yet undetermined, the Mustangs’ season is stuck in limbo. The 3-1 loss to Cal State Fullerton is not indicative of the way Cal Poly has played for much of the 2015 season, yet it presents an obstacle for the Mustangs as they look to be successful in the rest of the postseason.