It has been close to three years since the Cal Poly men’s soccer team (4-4-2, 1-1-1 Big West) has come out of a matchup against UC Santa Barbara (5-3-2, 2-1-0) victorious. In what has become maybe one of the best rivalries in Division-I men’s soccer, the Mustangs look to reignite their rivalry with UC Santa Barbara when they travel to Santa Barbara tonight for their first match against the Gauchos this season.
Santa Barbara has dominated the Big West in recent history, finishing first in six of the last nine seasons, but recent matchups in what has been dubbed the “Blue-Green Rivalry” have posed a potential threat for the Gauchos. Cal Poly has challenged UC Santa Barbara for the throne atop the Big West in recent years.
Since 2006, Cal Poly and Santa Barbara have had the best cumulative Big West records. Only the Gauchos (31-9-6) have earned more points, produced more conference victories and suffered fewer conference defeats than Cal Poly (21-13-12).
The origin of Cal Poly’s rivalry with Santa Barbara extends past its recent success. Only about 100 miles apart, the rivalry between the two highly competitive schools began in 1994 when Cal Poly first entered in to NCAA Division-I play.
Cal Poly enjoyed success in the early years of the rivalry, winning six of tis first eight matchups. Since then, the Gauchos have dominated the rivalry, going 14-2-0 in the last 16 games, including a 12-game winning streak which left Cal Poly without a win from 2001 to 2006.
Cal Poly has begun to turn the rivalry around after the creation of the new Alex G. Spanos Stadium and the arrival of head coach Paul Holocher, who brought a 109-24-8 record from coaching at UC Santa Cruz.
Cal Poly has registered a 1-3-3 record in the last three seasons against UC Santa Barbara with two losses by only one goal.
Each of Cal Poly’s matches against UC Santa Barbara since 2007 has drawn record attendances, including five games that were in the top-17 most attended regular season games in NCAA history. Matches at UCSB drew the 12th largest crowd with 8,192 and 9th largest with 9,749. Cal Poly drew the 17th largest crowd with 7,143, the 8th largest crowd with 9,824 and the 6th largest crowd with 11,075.
David Zamora, who is one of two players on the Mustangs that has seen a victory against the Gauchos, said the record-breaking attendance created one of the most memorable environments he has played in during his time at Cal Poly.
“The environment was awesome,” Zamora said. “It was especially great hearing all the fans cheer and the people screaming. When you’re playing and the fans are supporting you, you feel all the energy coming to the field. It was just overwhelming.”
Senior midfielder Junior Burgos will be fighting for his victory against Santa Barbara. Burgos said the threat of a huge Gauchos fan base turning out would not discourage his play, but motivate him instead.
“Playing in Santa Barbara has always been a hostile environment but as a team we are prepared,” Burgos said. “We’ve done it in the past. We actually like having all the people root against us so we can prove them wrong and it becomes a bigger accomplishment.”
Cal Poly’s rivalry with Santa Barbara has received national attention in recent years. In 2008, Cal Poly’s home game versus Santa Barbara was televised as the Fox Soccer Channel’s game of the week. Huge fan turnouts and close matchups have set the stage for another nationally televised game this season in Cal Poly’s home game against UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 27.
Burgos said the team is not only motivated to beat UC Santa Barbara as rivals, but also because Cal Poly could take the No. 2 spot from UC Santa Barbara with a victory.
“You know, I think rivalry games are always fun and not just for us but for the fans,” Burgos said. “But we also take pride in beating good teams and we know Santa Barbara is a really good team.”