Cal Poly Women's Soccer secures 3-1 win over UC Riverside with all three scores coming from freshman Annika Smith. Credit: Alice Sukhostavskiy

Cal Poly Mustangs Freshman forward Annika Smith led the way with a hat trick as the Mustangs got their second conference win 3-1 against UC Riverside on Sunday, Oct. 1. This is the first hat trick for the program since September 19, 2014.

This was the Mustangs’ (4-5-2 2-1-0 Big West) third conference game and concluded their two-game homestand.

The Mustangs and Highlanders  (2-6-4 2–0 Big West) put the defensive pressure onto each other from kickoff. 

At the six-minute mark Mustangs junior forward Emily Nedom passed to Smith, allowing her to score the first goal of the game to give the Mustangs an early lead.

The pace began to slow down with neither team getting the upper ground. By the 25th minute the Mustangs had five shots compared to the Highlanders’ four shots. The Mustangs finished with a total of 18 shots compared to six for the Highlanders. 

“We want to be stingy,” Associate Head Coach Scott Williams said. “We gave up 12 shots in the last two games total. The focus and leadership comes from the leadership of this group.”

The pace began to move up as Smith critically drove to the goal and capitalized on her second goal of the game. Smith’s third career goal put the Mustangs up 2-0 in the 29th minute.

Both teams were looking to gain more momentum before the half ended. Highlanders senior midfielder Brayelenn Lianca was able to get off aggressive shots in the 37 minutes. 

It was not until the Highlanders obtained their first penalty kick at 43:55, in which Lianca drew a foul on Mustangs sophomore midfielder Camryn Penn. Lianca scored on the penalty kick, giving the Highlanders their first goal of the game. 

The Mustangs entered halftime with a 2-1 lead.

The Mustangs did not want to keep the momentum down and managed to open up strong to start the second half. With only a minute and 21 seconds into the period, Smith successfully hit her third goal of the game on an assist from graduate student forward/midfielder Whitney Wiley

Both teams rallied against one another for the next 20 minutes of the second half. Penn got a strong shot on goal but did not capitalize. 

Between the 50 and 70-minute mark, the Highlanders struggled with foul trouble, committing a total of five fouls in that 20-minute period, compared to two for the Mustangs.

Mustangs junior midfielder Peja Balanon and freshman forward Bailey Bracha found an opening on two opportunities to build on the Mustangs lead as the game approached the final eight minutes. 

“We’re finding ways to get closer to the goal, because obviously the percentage goes up as you get closer,” said Williams. “I’m really happy that we are creating opportunities and I think that the more that we can make them quality opportunities to get them to the goal.”

The Mustangs were able to hold their lead in the final minutes, which pushed their record to 2-1 in conference games.

“We played really well last Thursday and I think we just really wanted to get back at the conference this week,” Smith said. “I think we need to keep the vibes of what we have at home down to Long Beach and I think we need to keep that energy all throughout the week.”

The Mustangs look to build on this game as they travel to George Allen Field, to play against Long Beach State, Thursday, Oct 5. at 6 P.M.