Playing in front of a hostile and sold out crowd of 11,075 in San Luis Obispo, the UCSB men’s soccer team battled Cal Poly to a 1-1 double-overtime draw Friday night in the first of two Blue-Green rivalry matches this season.
While the tie snaps a seven-game winning streak for UCSB, the Gauchos remain undefeated in conference play as Friday’s result brings their record to 11-4-1 overall and 6-0-1 in the Big West. Cal Poly, meanwhile, remains second in the Big West North at 9-6-2 overall and 2-3-2 in conference matches.
“It was definitely a really hostile environment because in that stadium the stands are so close to the field,” freshman goalkeeper Josh McNeely said. “It was really fun actually, I really enjoyed it. It’s kind of a cool experience where you go into an environment where everyone wants you to lose.”
Facing the highest-scoring team in the nation, the Gauchos emphasis entering the game was on the defensive end. Things did not quite go as expected early on, however, as freshman winger Justin Dhillon sent a header off into the back of the net for a 9th minute goal.
McNeely and the rest of the defense certainly responded as the goalkeeper made four saves on the game, shutting down the Mustangs’ offensive attack for the remainder of the match.
“We started off the game a little shaky, myself and the defense, giving up an early goal,” McNeely said. “We just hadn’t settled into the game yet and after that we kind of settled down. It was just so loud in the stadium we couldn’t hear each other.”
UCSB looked as if it would trail at the half, but senior forward Achille Campion evened the match, sending a ball from 20 yards out over the Cal Poly goalkeeper for a 45th minute goal. It was Campion’s team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Defense took over from then on as neither team could capitalize on opportunities, ensuring UCSB remained winless at Cal Poly since 2009.
“Our defense came up really big. Our game plan was to make sure we worked hard starting from our forwards and going down all the way to the goalie,” senior defensive midfielder Fifi Baiden said. “Our forwards gave us the running and our defense was pretty solid. Josh was outstanding for us and nothing went past him.”
Overall, UCSB outshot Cal Poly 14-13 with a 7-5 advantage on shots on goal. Cal Poly senior forward Mackenzie Pridham, the nation’s leading goal scorer, contributed six shots and three on goal but came up empty thanks to a phenomenal performance from McNeely.
Campion led UCSB with four shots, three on goal, while senior midfielder Goffin Boyoko contributed four shots and two on goal.
“We got some chances, but at the end of the day we are happy we got the point,” Baiden said. “We stay undefeated and we keep working towards staying undefeated in the Big West season.”
The Gauchos now need just one point in their remaining three games to clinch the Big West North Division.
“We’re just going to focus on trying to win our last three games and hopefully do something historic and go undefeated in conference,” McNeely said.
UCSB next hosts UC Davis on Saturday for a 7 p.m. match.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of October 28, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.