The Cal Poly men’s soccer team drubbed UC Riverside 5-1 in its Friday match, but lost 1-0 to Cal State Fullerton in the weekend finale on Sunday. The Mustangs boast an 8-4-0 overall record and lead the nation with 32 goals scored on the season.
Jefferson P. Nolan
[follow id = “jefferson_nolan”]
Entering Sunday’s matchup against Cal State Fullerton, the Cal Poly men’s soccer team (8-4-0, 1-1-0 Big West) led all 198 Division I teams in total goals scored with 32. It’s the first time in head coach Paul Holocher’s regime that his team has accumulated such a lofty scoring record.
But after the Mustangs fell 1-0 to the Titans in their second Big West Conference match of the season, the eighth-year head coach couldn’t care less about his team’s overall scoring tally.
Without the win in a conference match, almost nothing else matters.
“We’ve had some games when we’ve been able to score a number of goals, but we’ve also been shut out three times, and today was one of them,” Holocher said. “Every game is different. We’ve got a good team and the ability to score goals, but soccer is an interesting and funny game. Today we didn’t have that juice to put one in.”
On Friday, the Mustangs kicked off conference play by dominating UC Riverside (5-3-2, 0-1-0 Big West) as freshmen Ari Lassiter and Justin Dhillon contributed goals to the 5-1 victory at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Lassiter, a true freshman from Great Oaks High School, finished Friday’s game with two goals, and senior forward Mackenzie Pridham notched his ninth goal this season.
“I was really just doing my job coming off the bench; the team called my name, and I just answered,” Lassiter said. “It was a good win (on Friday), but we can’t get away from our own style of play.”
Holocher does not deny the positivity of starting the conference play with a victory, but Sunday’s loss to Cal State Fullerton puts things into perspective for the Mustangs.
“It’s positive, but at the same time, there are easier games and then there are harder games,” Holocher said. “You want to get the guys to produce in the harder games. That’s the next step … being able to do that against tough competition and not the one where you have a three- to four-goal lead.”
The Mustangs placed seven shots on goal against the Titans, but it was an 11th-minute penalty kick from the Titans’ senior defender Jaime Cano that proved to be the deciding factor in the Sunday afternoon matchup.
After striking early, Fullerton successfully thwarted Cal Poly’s seven shots on goal and forced nine other shots off target.
In the 85th minute, the Mustangs got their best opportunity to equalize the score, but sophomore Chase Minter’s shot drilled the crossbar above the Titan’s goal.
Pridham recorded one of the five goals against the Highlanders on Friday, but the Mustangs’ leading scorer felt the frustration as Fullerton continued to deny his game-high three shots on goal.
“I had a couple of close opportunities, and I guess it was just one of those days that things didn’t go my way,” Pridham said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go in.”
Two yellow cards issued to Minter throughout the match and few questionable calls from the referees led to jeers from the crowd. Minter is currently suspended for one game, and will be forced to sit out the Mustangs’ match on Friday.
“I don’t think we were sharp; I think we were distracted by the referee,” Holocher said. “That didn’t help our game, and we obviously didn’t create enough quality chances to put (a goal) away. Our energy wasn’t what we needed it to be.”
Holocher and his soccer squad will take to the road for a three-game road trip — the first of which is against UC Irvine as the Mustangs attempt to claim their second conference victory of the season.