Cal Poly men’s soccer (4-5-3, 1-2-2 Big West) held No. 8 UC Irvine (10-1-2, 3-0-1) to a scoreless draw through two overtimes Saturday night.
The Mustangs entered the match with two late losses, including a 2-1 loss to UC Santa Barbara in the 90th minute and a 2-1 loss from their first game against UC Irvine in the 88th minute. But from the start of the game to the last minute in overtime, the Mustangs battled with one of the nation’s best teams.
Cal Poly outshot UC Irvine five to four in the first half and put up a record four shots on goal for the game. A scoring opportunity came in the 57th minute as junior Jake Hustedt faked out his defender with a turn-around break toward the Anteater goal, centering to senior David Zamora, who dove for an attempted header at goal.
UC Irvine, which leads the league with the fewest goals given up all season at four, held down the Mustang offense. Cal Poly couldn’t put one past standout goalie Andrew Fontein, who recorded his tenth shutout this season while giving up 0.3 goals against in 13 games.
Cal Poly matched UC Irvine’s efforts, recording 12 shots to the Anteater’s 13 through the first overtime period.
But Irvine, which leads the Big West by averaging 2.5 goals per game average, exploded in the second overtime period putting forth their best offensive effort in the final minutes of the game. Of their 20 total shots, seven came in the last six minutes of play.
With 22 seconds remaining, UC Irvine midfielder Corey Attaway placed a shot in the upper left corner of the goal off a corner kick, but the shot was denied by junior goalkeeper Patrick McLain. His diving save thwarted another possible late second win for the Anteaters. McLain had five saves in his third shutout of the season.
McLain, who started his first home game since missing four straight with a hand injury, said he was excited about his performance.
“Well I don’t want those shots ideally, but at the same time it’s my job and I love my job,” McLain said. “Those are the moments you kind of dream about — making the upper corner save in the last minute. Those are the opportunities you hope you get as a keeper.”
There were mixed feelings about the resulting tie after the game. The Mustangs were still hungry for a win and a much needed three points for the standings.
“It’s a little bittersweet I guess. Obviously we would like to have gotten our three points, but we got a result and I guess that’s OK,” junior Patrick Sigler said , who led the team with two shots on goal.
“We wanted to win,” McLain said. “The positive is we still shut out the No. 8 team in the country. That’s a really big plus for us … and a boost for our whole confidence to be able to play with a team like that.”
Head coach Paul Holocher said he was proud of his team and, despite shutting out UC Irvine, there are still things to work on offensively and defensively.
“I thought the guys battled hard and a shutout performance against that team is definitely a positive,” Holocher said. “I thought there were some moments where we played well and passed the ball, and there were moments where we weren’t composed enough and just weren’t sharp enough … we’ve got to review the film and try to get better next week and really focus on a good performance.”
Cal Poly will have time to rest up with an eight-day break before its next game against UC Davis.
The rest comes at a time when Cal Poly will be fighting for a spot in the Big West playoffs during its last five games. Cal Poly is currently fifth in the Big West standings and needs to secure a spot in the top four to advance to the playoffs.
The game against UC Davis will start at 1 p.m. in Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Oct. 24.