The Mustang men’s soccer team danced in jubilation, spraying each other with Gatorade and silly string in the locker room following a 2-1 win against rival UC Santa Barbara. But just 30 minutes earlier, that outcome was less than probable.
The physicality and emotion of the rivalry were alive and well in the dying minutes of regulation time with the Mustangs and Gauchos deadlocked at one goal apiece following a 79th-minute equalizer by right back Cameron Walters.
After several tic-tac-toe passes in the offensive third, Cal Poly’s Kyle Montgomery was brought down inside the penalty area just 26 seconds from full time by defender Tim Pontius, resulting in a penalty kick for the Mustangs.
Patrick Sigler calmly strode into the box and drilled the opportunity into the left corner of the net fooling the Gaucho keeper. The goal was Sigler’s second off a penalty kick this season, the other defeated then No. 7 UC Irvine.
“I was definitely a little nervous with 11,000 people looking on, but I kind of had to block it all out and let my confidence take over, and I slotted it away,” Sigler said. “I needed a little bit of redemption. … If my time came, I thought ‘I have to put it away.’”
Down 1-0 with 11 minutes remaining, the Mustangs (6-5-2, 3-2-0) clawed back into the match with a 79th-minute header from Walters, and a 90th-minute penalty kick conversion by Sigler that sent Alex G. Spanos Stadium into a frenzy as Cal Poly defeated rival UC Santa Barbara for the second time in a year. The victory marks the first time this season that the Mustangs were able to come back from a goal down and hang on for the win.
According to Sigler, the performance was a testament to the character of the team, and its ability to persevere against a top flight team like the Gauchos (9-4-1, 2-3-0).
“It’s our first game coming from a goal down, we grinded,” Sigler said. “It’s definitely tough playing a team like Santa Barbara one down. It proves we can grind through adversity, and it was a great win for us.”
The Mustangs came charging out of the gates with several opportunities to open the score early, but it was the Gauchos’ first chance of the match that resulted in the contest’s opening goal. On a counter attack in the 12th minute, a pinpoint pass by Gauchos forward Dom Sarle split a pair of Mustang defenders and found forward Sam Garza for a breakaway opportunity which he slid past senior goalkeeper Patrick McLain.
Following the early goal by the Gauchos, the two teams played a relatively level match through the rest of the opening hour.
The Mustangs began to pick up play and started to control possession in the 59th minute after junior midfielder Chris Gaschen and redshirt freshmen midfielder Nolan Moore were inserted into the match.
The Mustangs did not let off the gas pedal after Walter’s equalizer as they saw several opportunities thwarted by Gaucho goalkeeper Andre Grandt. The eventual result, a penalty in the box, gave Cal Poly three points toward its Big West standing while stealing at least a point from UCSB.
The Mustangs improve to 3-1-1 in four previous home matches against UC Santa Barbara with the win, and improve to 3-2 in the Big West.
Head coach Paul Holocher credits the strong performance to the leadership and determination of the senior captains.
“We outshot them 16-7, so we were obviously hoping to put one in,” Holocher said. “That first goal by Cameron Walters was just a big-time senior play. These guys took over the game, I was just calm that last 20 minutes. It was awesome.”
The Mustangs back line, which has allowed the fewest goals of any Big West team in conference play, suffered a huge blow in losing senior left back Wes Feighner to an apparent left leg injury in the first half. According to Holocher, the injured captain had just a strong an influence in the win despite being sidelined.
“This win was for Wes,” Holocher said. “We did it for him.”
The Mustangs take to the pitch Wednesday Oct. 19 as they travel to Cal State Fullerton for a conference clash against a reeling Titans squad that is winless in conference play.