A hush fell over the usually boisterous crowd as junior midfielder Diego Alonso’s shot flew through the air.
When Alonso’s shot made its way into the net in the 64th minute, Alex G. Spanos Stadium went into a full frenzy, complete with flying tortillas. It was the decisive goal in Cal Poly’s 1-0 win over UC Santa Barbara Sunday night.
“I heard Diego on my right, even though it’s tough to hear out there,” senior defender Nick Carroll said, who assisted Alonso’s match-winner. “I know how good his right foot is, so I gotta give him all that credit. It was a helluva shot.”
It is no secret that the Blue-Green Rivalry between the Cal Poly Mustangs (4-4-1) and UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (6-4) always results in a heated battle between two of college soccer’s most prominent programs.
Over the years, “The Greatest Rivalry in College Soccer” has produced phenomenal play from both teams, as well as memorable moments for both schools. However, the first of two 2018 matches between the Blue-Green rivals brought a new level of intensity.
The match could have been mistaken for trench warfare, with very few opportunities for either team to score. This lack of productivity on offense was spearheaded by both teams’ defensive performances, which resulted in 34 fouls between both teams throughout the match.
“Everyone knows these games, and in the past they’re always chippy,” Carroll said. “There’s gonna be yellow cards, there’s gonna be red cards as we saw, there’s gonna be a lot of fouls. The key is to just keep your head and stay focused.”
What turned this match from a competitive experience to a full-on battle was the high physicality shown between both squads. In the first half alone, there was a total of 16 fouls and five yellow cards between both teams. Tempers flared due to physical play around UC Santa Barbara’s goalkeeper Ben Roach, resulting in a pair red cards being issued after an altercation between senior forward Jared Pressley and the Gauchos’ goalkeeper in the 89th minute.
The second half opened with an offensive attack from the Gauchos, but some solid defense, paired with a save by senior goalkeeper Simon Böehme , kept the score at 0-0. The Mustangs then responded with a goal attempt of their own, when Alonso’s shot sailed over the crossbar in the 49th minute.
In the 64th minute, the gridlock gave way when the Gauchos’ twelve shots throughout the match were negated by the Mustangs’ lone goal. Alonso’s shot was deflected by UC Santa Barbara forward Kaya Fabbretti. The ball sailed over the head of Gaucho goalkeeper Ben Roach and into the goal, giving the Mustangs a 1-0 lead.
“It feels good, just looking at my bench and [going] up to my coach and just hugging him,” Alonso said. “It feels good to get the goal of the season.”
The Mustangs held onto the lead, despite last minute efforts by the Gauchos. Simon Böehme came up with two clutch saves that planted the final nail in the Gauchos’ coffin, securing the victory for the Mustangs.
“That’s what I live for,” Böehme said when asked about the amount of pressure in the match’s closing moments. “That’s what goalkeeping is, you know. So, it’s phenomenal, it’s awesome. I mean, that rush — adrenaline rush … it’s amazing.”
As the match reached full-time after 90 minutes of play, the seats in Spanos Stadium were now empty as fans hopped over the fence to celebrate the team’s win on the pitch.
This is Cal Poly’s final match before they begin conference play Wednesday against No. 17 UC Davis.
“The coaches in our conference voted us to finish last in [the Big West] and we’re using that as motivation,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “Hopefully we’ve gained a little bit of respect tonight. We intend to gain more respect with each and every game in conference.”