Fall is filled with several big games, including some of the biggest rivalries. “All the other games are just as important, but that rivalry adds a little more to that game,” men’s soccer senior forward Mackenzie Pridham.
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As classes begin in the fall, so does a new year in Cal Poly athletics. With that comes the excitement of the biggest matchups, fiercest rivalries and an insatiable appetite to rush the field — home or away. Mark your calendars, because here are the biggest games of the 2013 fall sports calendar in chronological order.
Saturday, Oct. 5: Football vs. Yale
The Mustangs will play their first-ever game against an Ivy League opponent when they host Yale in the first home game back from summer vacation. The Bulldogs are coming off a tough 2-8 campaign and an eighth place finish in the Ivy League from a year ago, but a trip from a traditional football and academic power such as Yale should make for an interesting matchup on the field.
In this battle of the brains, Cal Poly will look to take advantage of Yale’s lone trip away from the East Coast this season. In fact, it’s only the third time in Yale football’s 137-year existence it will be making the trek out to California. That sort of history offers Cal Poly’s fanbase a unique opportunity, according to athletics director Don Oberhelman.
“To have somebody from clear across the country come in that we compete against, even in recruiting, is really, really cool,” Oberhelman said of the academic competition of both schools. “Historically, they’re one of the founding members of the NCAA. They’ve got a long history of college football and really great college football. It’s going to be a treat for our fans to have them here.”
Yale, as well as all other Ivy League schools, doesn’t offer scholarships to their student-athletes, making this the second game of the year the Mustangs play against a non-scholarship school (San Diego).
Nevertheless, Oberhelman expects a packed house and even said he’s surprised at how much fan anticipation the game has received in comparison to other marquee matchups such as a visit from nationally ranked Eastern Washington later in the year.
Kickoff is set for 2:05 p.m. in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Friday, Oct. 25: Men’s soccer vs. UC Santa Barbara
What’s been dubbed as the greatest college soccer rivalry in the nation by CollegeSoccerNews.com returns to Spanos Stadium when the Gauchos travel north for the first matchup of a home-and-home with Cal Poly in late October. The Big West Conference has once again rewarded the Blue-Green Rivalry with a Friday night match, which could result in a fourth sellout of the 11,075 seat capacity stadium. Overall, the Cal Poly-UC Santa Barbara series has drawn 11 of the top 28 regular season crowd figures in NCAA history with an average of 8,208 fans per match packing the seats since 2007.
But this game is about more than just crowd numbers, as the product on the field has lived up to the hype. Eleven of the previous 12 matches between these two schools has been decided by a single goal or resulted in a draw. Last year’s contest in San Luis Obispo resulted in a 1-0 win for the Mustangs after a 77th-minute strike by then-junior George Malki sealed Cal Poly’s first season sweep of the Gauchos since 1997.
“All the other games are just as important, but that rivalry adds a little more to that game,” senior forward and Hermann Trophy candidate as the nation’s best player Mackenzie Pridham said. “The fans, I can’t even begin to explain how much they get us going. … Without them it wouldn’t be the same.”
To add more flavor to the bitter clash between these central coast foes, UC Santa Barbara entered the 2013 season ranked No. 13 in the country while the Mustangs were tabbed to finish third of four teams in the Big West North Division.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Spanos Stadium.
Saturday, Nov. 2: Football at UC Davis
After knocking off the rival Aggies for the first time in three years last season, the Cal Poly football team will try to defend its title in the Battle of the Golden Horseshoe. The Mustangs haven’t won on the road in this matchup since 2007 when Cal Poly put up 63 points in a rout.
While Cal Poly and UC Davis have had a rivalry for years, since the horseshoe trophy was introduced in 2004, the Aggies hold a slight advantage in wins, 5-4 — they also lead the all-time series 19-17-2. For this year’s redshirt seniors, that record includes a stretch where the Mustangs lost three straight games in their first three years on campus before last season’s triumph at home. For them, leaving Cal Poly knowing the horseshoe will stay in San Luis Obispo one more year is one of the main goals of the 2013 season.
“With the losses — they’re so heartbreaking — especially my redshirt freshman year when we were up 21-3 at half and they beat us,” senior linebacker Johnny Millard said. “Those ones hurt, so it was pretty intense last year and it’ll be just as intense this year, and hopefully we can keep the horseshoe.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Aggie Stadium.
Saturday, Nov. 9: Men’s soccer at UC Santa Barbara
Last season’s come-from-behind victory on the road in Goleta was the Mustangs’ first win at Harder Stadium since the 1998 season. In that game, it took 90 minutes for Cal Poly to get on the board with an equalizer before the reigning Big West Offensive Player of the Year Pridham slotted home an overtime winner to send the Mustang faithful spilling onto the field in jubilation.
“Afterwards, I couldn’t really begin to explain it,” Pridham said. “I didn’t even really know how it happened.”
This year’s contest has the makings of an even better game.
The Mustangs and Gauchos may have more at stake this time around, setting up an intriguing finish to the Big West Conference schedule. The Gauchos were already eliminated from playoff contention due to self-imposed sanctions when the teams met last year, while this year the meeting will be the last game of the regular season for both squads — possibly resulting in a sudden death-type match for playoff positioning. This one will also be televised regionally on Fox Sports West, making it the third consecutive year that the rivalry match has been televised from Harder Stadium.
Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m.