After what head coach Alex Crozier described as a “rollercoaster” of a season, the Cal Poly women’s soccer team fell to Cal State Northridge 1-0 in the semifinal round of the Big West Tournament at UC Irvine on Thursday to end its 2012 campaign.
The Mustangs (9-7-3) couldn’t find the equalizer after ceding a 25th-minute goal by Matadors junior forward Melissa Fernandez to end their season short of a conference championship.
“Overall, it was a pretty evenly matched game,” Crozier said. “We had a bit of a breakdown defensively that they took advantage of and scored. The first half we played OK, and in the second half, we picked it up and had some really good looks. It was just one of those games that either team could have won. It just happened to be the wrong team for us on that day.”
Freshman Elise Krieghoff took a team-leading six shots against the Matadors, but ultimately couldn’t find the back of the net.
A spark plug for the Mustangs all season long, Krieghoff finished the year with a conference-high 11 goals, including two game-winners. She also led the Big West in almost every other offensive statistical category.
“She scored goals, and people notice that,” Crozier said about Krieghoff. “There are a lot of players who dedicated a lot of work who don’t get the credit that she does, but scoring goals is huge. She did that battling some illnesses early on. She has the potential to have a huge impact on this program.”
But the soccer team Crozier had at the beginning of even exhibition matches turned out to be one completely different than the squad that made it to playoffs in the Big West Tournament. Plagued with setbacks from torn ACL’s to mononucleosis infections, the women’s soccer team had certainly been on an odyssey to get to playoff competition.
“We had two separate seasons,” Crozier said. “We had players who were making huge impacts for us early on that were injured and couldn’t play for us in the conference. Then there were players who could play early on, but ended up making an impact during conference. It was like the tale of two seasons. It wasn’t a typical season; we just built on it week to week. The personnel kept changing, but the players responded really well.”
Cal Poly entered conference play on a season-high five-game losing streak, but the Mustangs’ fortunes quickly turned around with a 4-1 defeat of Pacific on Sept. 28. From there, Cal Poly didn’t tally another loss until the team got shut out at Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 21, as the Mustangs finished 6-1-2 in Big West play.
Crozier’s squad began the season hitting on all cylinders, as the Mustangs went on a four-match winning streak before beginning their five-game skid in September, which was punctuated by a 5-1 loss at then-No. 17 BYU.
The Mustangs regrouped outscoring opponents 7-2 in their first three Big West games en route to securing a tournament spot with a 1-0 win over Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara.
In that game, Krieghoff slotted home the game-winner — her 11th goal of the season — in the 73rd minute to take over fifth place on Cal Poly’s single season goals scored list and send Cal Poly to Irvine as the No.3 seed in the tournament.
Many new players made substantial impacts during the season for the women’s team, including freshman goalkeeper Alyssa Giannetti who helped the Mustangs advance to postseason play. The Orange County native led the Big West Conference goalkeepers with more than six saves per game, while her 123 stops on the year ranked her in the top 20 nationally.
“I just look at it like I was doing my job,” Giannetti said. “It was hard as a team to focus on staying healthy. We pulled through. People played through injuries, but they did it for the team. It’s great for our program to see for the next four years how we’re going to develop and get better.”
With the Cal Poly’s season coming to an end, they team will say goodbye to seniors Julie McKee, Shandon Roveta, Cici Kobinski and Jessie Duller, who all played an instrumental role in the success of the team. However, with the amount of injuries that occurred during the season, many players who were freshmen this year were obliged to redshirt to postpone their eligibility until next season.
“The returner players that we have is a really quality group,” Crozier said. “If we can keep everyone healthy, we’re going to do very well next year.”