There were no fans storming the field at Alex G. Spanos Stadium as Cal Poly (7-8-1, 3-4-0 Big West) lost 2-0 to UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night in the final match of the regular season.
Despite eight shots on goal during the first 30 minutes by Cal Poly, the Mustangs were unable to convert any of them. The Mustangs were thwarted by Gaucho goalkeeper Ben Roach in all of their attempts. The Santa Barbara native recorded 10 saves during the match, while the Gauchos managed just two shots.
In total, Cal Poly recorded 19 shots against UC Santa Barbara.
“I thought tonight we outclassed them, we outplayed them, we outshot them,” graduate forward Spencer Held said. “It was just an unlucky game for us.”
The Mustangs were awarded a corner in the first minute of the match. Sophomore defender Andrew Robertson directed the corner into the box, which saw junior midfielder Enrique Bustamante make the first shot of the match. Roach, in turn, made his first save of the match.
The Gauchos were the first to put themselves on the board in the 21st minute due to a goal from forward Will Baynham. A through pass from forward Rodney Michael allowed Baynahm to catch sophomore goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado off balance with a shot to the left side of the post.
Graduate defender Colin Hyatt followed with a close-range shot against Roach. Junior midfielder Emmanuel Perez made a low cross inside the box, but Hyatt’s shot went to the right post and was saved by Roach to keep the Gauchos ahead.
Senior midfielder Diego Alonso came within inches of scoring in the 17th minute. Perez’ shot attempt was blocked by the Gaucho defense before falling in front of Alonso’s feet. However, Roach was able to block Alonso’s follow-up attempt for the goalkeeper’s fifth save of the night.
Held almost equalized in the 23rd minute on a throw-in from sophomore defender Andrew Robertson, but the shot was once again secured by Roach.
The Mustangs continued to apply high pressure on the Gauchos as Roach faced three shots in rapid succession in the 32nd minute of the match. Two shots from Perez and a Hyatt follow-up from close-range proved threatening, but the shots were manageable for Roach.
“I think the biggest thing was communication,” junior defender Freeman Dwamena said about why the attackers were unable to convert crosses to goals inside the penalty box. “That was the biggest mistake there.”
Held produced the Mustangs’ first shot of the second half in the 55th minute. However, Held’s far range shot from just outside the penalty box went directly to the hands of Roach.
UC Santa Barbara quickly took advantage of the Mustangs’ missed opportunity. The counterattack saw an own goal after Baynham’s shot was deflected in the 55th minute off junior defender Josh Graham. The deflection flew over Arce-Hurtado’s head to increase the Gauchos’ lead to 2-0.
Senior forward Sebastian Herran produced a blocked header in the 80th minute off a long throw-in.
Gauchos forward Thibault Candia almost caught Arce-Hurtado out of position in the 88th minute, although he was unable to convert a shot after the Mustang defense crowded him and prevented any further damage from being taken.
In addition to the 19-3 shot total in favor of Cal Poly, both teams had an even number of fouls at 11 each. Both teams also had four corners each.
“I think it really shows and demonstrates the growth of this Cal Poly team, but the bottom line is you got to put the goal in the back of the net,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “[UC] Santa Barbara did that.”
The Mustangs will host Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday, Nov. 6 in the first round of the Big West Conference Tournament at 7 p.m. inside Spanos Stadium.
“I think the boys are anxious,” Sampson said. “They recognize that they had to put things behind them very quickly, you know, and stay in the moment and prepare for Wednesday. And that’s all that matters right now. If we get in a little bit of a roll, who knows? Maybe we’ll meet [UC Santa Barbara] in the final.”