SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Junior forward Benny Estes (above) notched his first goal as a Mustang on Sunday afternoon, but the Cal Poly men's soccer program conceded two goals to Denver inside the opening 24 minutes and dropped a 3-1 decision against the Pioneers at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
An offseason transfer from Saint Louis, Estes latched on to a 72nd-minute free kick from senior right back Cameron Walters and slammed the assist past Denver junior goalkeeper Matt Aguirre. The goal, however, only halved Denver's lead as the Mustangs (3-3-2) – who outshot the Pioneers, 20-8 – failed to find the equalizer.
An NCAA Tournament participant a season ago, Denver (2-4-2) opened the scoring during the 13th minute as freshman forward Christian Volesky received an unmarked throw-in from senior forward Christian Kellan and fired past Mustang senior goalkeeper Patrick McLain.
The Pioneers doubled their advantage 10 minutes later after junior defender Blake Shannon flicked a pass past the Cal Poly backline for junior defender Drew Beckie, who slotted a one-on-one attempt past McLain.
"We gave up two early goals and you just can't do that when you have a tough time scoring (yourself). Not being able to handle a throw-in and a long ball led to us digging a deep hole," said sixth-year Cal Poly head coach Paul Holocher, whose Mustangs open Big West Conference action on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at No. 8 UC Irvine. "We had plenty of shots, but a tough time finishing. We're telling the guys to stay positive and stay aggressive though."
With Cal Poly on the attack three minutes later, Denver sophomore midfielder Blair Jeralds was whistled for a foul after bringing down Mustang senior left back Wes Feighner inside the penalty area. Cal Poly, however, saw a string of eight-successive converted penalties broken when sophomore midfielder George Malki had his attempt from the spot stopped by Aguirre.
Despite the missed chance, Cal Poly began compiling a streak of scoring opportunities. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Pridham headed high in the 28th minute before forcing Aguirre into a 30th-minute save. Junior forward Dakota Collins was turned away in the 43rd minute before senior center back Patrick Sigler saw a headed attempt stopped a minute before the break.
Into the second half, Sigler headed a Malki corner kick off the cross bar during the 52nd minute. Four minutes later, Walters connected off the cross bar with an attempt. After Estes headed right of the Denver net in the 57th, Walters again went high in the 63rd following a Malki corner. Cal Poly was again foiled in the 69th when freshman midfielder Keegan Smith, after creating space on the right fringe of the Denver penalty box, fired a bounding attempt off the left post.
It was Estes, however, who unlocked the Denver goal 18 minutes from time, but the Mustangs – who held Denver to just one shot during the opening 42 minutes of the second half – failed to produce the equalizer.
Denver rounded off the scoring in the 88th minute with senior midfielder Matt Kirby burying a rebounded shot attempt from junior forward Nate Sackeyfio past Mustang freshman goalkeeper Chase Hauser.