This weekend is kind of a big deal for the Cal Poly men’s soccer team as it takes on Portland (9-4-5, 6-1-4 West Coast Conference) and Cal State Fullerton (7-9-2, 2-6-2 Big West).
“Portland is a pretty storied program. They’ve historically been very, very competitive,” head coach Paul Holocher said of the upcoming match at 7 p.m Friday at Spanos Stadium.
Poly, currently ranked No. 6 in the Far West Region, sits one spot above No. 7 Portland.
Holocher stressed that along with his team, which hasn’t been to the NCAA playoffs in a decade, the Pilots, second place in the West Coast Conference, are also fighting for a playoff spot.
Neither team looks to be a spoiler; this is a must-win on both fronts.
“We expect it to be one of the toughest games of the year,” Holocher said as he commented on the disciplined defense and direct style of play of Portland.
And just how will the Mustangs counter the regimented play of the Pilots?
“We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year long,” Holocher said, though he did stress to his team that aggressiveness from the get-go is key.
Along with a pungent attack, the soccer team thrives off of its 12th man, the Mustang Manglers.
“The Manglers come in and you can see the families cheering for them. They make the games more fun,” said Holocher, who insists that Mustang fan support will be a key component in the upcoming games.
Following the Portland match, Poly will take on Cal State Fullerton at 1 p.m. Sunday in Spanos Stadium.
The Mustangs defeated Fullerton 1-0 on Titan territory on Sept. 29. The Titans come to Spanos Stadium following a 2-1 loss to UC Santa Barbara last Saturday. Sophomore Shay Spitz leads the Titans with 11 points on five goals and an assist.
In goal, senior Brent Douglas has held opponents to 0.82 goals per game and has recorded three shutouts.
Unlike the women’s conference, there is no Big West Championship following the regular season. There are 48 spots in the NCAA playoffs; 18 conferences, including the Big West, issue automatic qualifiers to first-place teams. UCSB has clinched first place in the Big West, forcing the second-place Mustangs to fight for an at-large bid.
“Our destiny is in the next couple games,” Holocher said.
Even with two wins this weekend, nothing is for certain, though Holocher explained, “From what everyone is predicting, a couple good results here and we’re going to the playoffs.”