Cal Poly women’s soccer took down Cal State Fullerton in the semifinals of the tournament by a score of 2-0 on Thursday, Nov. 4 inside Anteater Stadium in Irvine to advance to the Big West Championship game.
This game was the first conference tournament action for the Mustangs in seven years and the team is back in the conference championship game for the first time in 12 years.
Just as they have done time and time again this year, the Mustangs struck early and grabbed a 1-0 lead with a goal from sophomore forward Olivia Ortiz in the 14th minute. Ortiz was the seventh leading goal scorer in the conference during the regular season.
“We watched film on them and one of the things we noticed was that they dropped a lot when we dribbled at them,” Ortiz said in a postgame interview with the Big West. “I kept going and going and it felt like the right time to take a shot, luckily it went in.”
However, the momentum didn’t last long, as the Titans were on the attack less than three minutes later when midfielder Samantha McKenna’s shot clanged off the crossbar.
The following twenty minutes found both teams with missed opportunities on runs and through balls. In fact, it wasn’t until the final ten minutes of half that the Mustangs got their offensive groove back and pushed for another score before halftime.
The stretch saw the Mustangs win three corner kicks and two great chances on goal by Ortiz and senior defender Danielle Anderson, but each were saved by the Titans’ goalkeeper Noa Schumacher.
With the momentum, the Mustangs entered half up 1-0.
Just six minuted into the second half Cal Poly added yet another quick goal to extend their lead to 2-0. The Mustangs applied pressure with sophomore midfielder Camille Lafaix and junior forward Brooke Rubinstein to start, but it was the miscommunication between the Titans’ Sydney Douglas and Schumacher on a back pass that ended up trickling by Schumacher and into the back on the net for an own-goal by Fullerton.
Feeling the pressure to get back into the game, the Titans went with a heavy offensive attack for the rest of the half. Fullerton sent defenders up and subbed nine times to keep the legs as fresh as possible.
This play style had some success, as Fullerton had six out of the final seven shots taken by both sides. However, the Mustangs fell back into a defensive formation for the final thirty minutes to keep the Titans off the scoreboard.
Freshman goalkeeper Mackenzie Samuel came up clutch for Cal Poly with two saves during the final stretch to go along with multiple clears to eliminate Titan offensive pushes.
The Mustangs outshot Fullerton 10-9 and held the advantage in most major statistical categories.
In the press conference, Ortiz spoke about reaching the Big West Championship game.
“It’s unbelievable, I’m so pumped,” Ortiz said. “Our team has been underestimated, I feel like, this whole year. I think we’re all so excited to get to that point and we would really like to prove ourselves and prove to everyone that we deserve to be here.”
The Mustangs will face off against top-seeded UC Irvine for the championship on Sunday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. at Anteater Stadium.