Men's Soccer Chases Big West Tournament Spot at Cal State Northridge
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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Two of the Cal Poly men's soccer team's three remaining regular season matches occur against programs the Mustangs are in competition with for a spot in the 2011 Big West Conference Tournament. For fifth-place Cal Poly (6-7-2, 3-4-0), that stretch begins with a 7 p.m. showdown at fourth-place Cal State Northridge (7-7-2, 3-3-1) on Saturday, Oct. 29. The top-four programs in the Big West standings qualify for the Nov. 9 (semifinal) and 12 (championship) conference tournament. Cal Poly has qualified for all three previous Big West Tournaments.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: Streaming audio and livestats for Cal Poly's Saturday showdown at Cal State Northridge is available above.
CAL POLY VERSUS CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE: The Matadors had ranked as the only Big West program a Paul Holocher-directed Cal Poly side had failed to lose against until Cal State Northridge dealt the Mustangs a 2-0 home defeat on Oct. 11. Cal Poly, however, is undefeated at Matador Soccer Field during the previous four trips south and last suffered an away loss against Cal State Northridge on Oct. 26, 2005 (1-0).
BACKLINE REMAINS THE BACKBONE: Cal Poly enters Saturday's match at Cal State Northridge having conceded just 14 goals in 15 matches and owning conference bests for goals-against average (0.89) and goals allowed per match (0.93). Cal Poly also ranks second among Big West programs with six shutouts. Nationally, Cal Poly's six clean sheets rank as the seventh-highest total among Division I sides while the program's goals-against average is 40th. Leading Cal Poly's defensive prowess is the back four of left back Jeff Strickland, right back Cameron Walters and center backs Patrick Sigler and Connor Drechsler. Walters, Sigler and Drechsler have started 32 of the previous 33 matches together. Already this season, Cal Poly has held an opponent to a single-digit shot total on seven occasions.
MUSTANGS SPREAD THE WEALTH: Cameron Walters became the ninth different Mustang to find the back of the opposition net this season when notching the equalizing goal during a 2-1 home triumph against then-No. 13 UC Santa Barbara (Oct. 14). The 2009 Mustangs set the program record for individual goalscorers at 13. Additionally, 13 different Mustangs have registered a point this season. That total matches a program record established by the 2008 Mustangs and equalized a season later.
FRESH FACES EMERGE IN FRONT OF GOAL: Freshman forward Nolan Moore became the fifth different player to record his first goal as a Mustang when notching during the 85th minute against UC Riverside (Oct. 9). An offseason transfer from Saint Louis, junior forward Benny Estes bagged his first Mustang goal against Denver (Sept. 25). Estes ranks third among Mustangs with 21 shot attempts this year. Junior forward Dakota Collins, an offseason transfer from UCLA, ranks second among Mustangs with a pair of goals after scoring versus Seattle (Sept. 4) and Villanova (Sept. 9). Also scoring for the first time in a Mustang shirt are sophomore forwards Ian Clark and Mackenzie Pridham, who both brought their season tallies to two goals apiece after finding the back of the net during Cal Poly's 5-0 romp versus UC Riverside.
SHOTS APLENTY: Five of the Mustang program's 15 goals this season came during one match, but Cal Poly's inability to find the back of the opposition net isn't due to lack of opportunity. Entering Saturday's match at Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly is averaging 13.8 shots per game compared to the opponent's 9.5 figure. Cal Poly, which produced a season-high 20 shot attempts versus both then-No. 12 West Virginia (Sept. 11) and against Denver (Sept. 25), has outshot its opponent during 11 of 15 matches this year.
MUSTANGS ON THE SPOT: Patrick Sigler's 90th-minute penalty against then-No. 13 UC Santa Barbara (Oct. 14) marked Cal Poly's 10th conversion during its last 11 attempts from the spot dating to the 2008 campaign. A perfect 5-for-5 from the spot in 2009, the Mustangs hit all three penalties last year. The Mustangs missed against Denver (Sept. 25), but Sigler converted a penalty during Cal Poly's 1-0 upset victory at No. 7 UC Irvine (Sept. 28) to get the program back on track.
MUSTANGS ON BEST BEHAVIOR: Cal Poly finds itself at the bottom of the Big West disciplinary chart for the second-consecutive season. The Mustangs enter Saturday's match at Cal State Northridge having committed a Big West-low 174 fouls and rank fourth with just 29 yellow cards.
BIG WEST EXCELLENCE: Only one Big West program – central coast foe UC Santa Barbara – has totaled more conference points, produced more conference victories and suffered fewer conference defeats than Cal Poly since Mustang head coach Paul Holocher's 2006 arrival.
FORTRESS SPANOS: Ten of Cal Poly's opening 13 matches occurred inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium, a home where the Mustangs are 29-9-8 since the venue's 2007 opening. During the past four-plus seasons, the Mustangs have recorded 18 shutout victories at home and Cal Poly's goalkeepers have kept 22 clean sheets. Additionally, Cal Poly has drawn 1,000-plus spectators during 34 of 46 matches at Spanos Stadium and twice sold out the 11,075-capacity complex.
HELD IN HIGH REGARD: The Mustangs improved to 8-13-8 against nationally-ranked opposition under sixth-year head coach Paul Holocher following a 2-1, come-from-behind home victory against then-No. 13 UC Santa Barbara (Oct. 14). Cal Poly, however, has only defeated one opponent ranked among the top 10 nationally since 2006. That victory came at No. 7 UC Irvine (Sept. 28).
MUSTANGS FACE NATION'S FINEST IN 2011: In what has become a hallmark of head coach Paul Holocher's tenure, Cal Poly is again facing one of the more testing schedules in Division I soccer during the 2011 campaign. Ending with a Nov. 4 clash at No. 23 UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly will have contested six matches this season against programs that qualified for the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
MUSTANGS RETURN TO THE SMALL SCREEN: Fox Soccer Channel optioned Cal Poly's Nov. 4 match at UC Santa Barbara, marking the second-successive season and third time in four years that the two rivals have appeared on national television. On FSC last season and before 8,125 spectators – the 13th-largest regular season attendance figure in NCAA history – Chris Gaschen's 93rd-minute strike delivered the Mustangs a 2-1 home victory against UC Santa Barbara. FSC also carried Cal Poly's 2008 home match versus the nationally-ranked Gauchos.
SPANOS STADIUM – WHERE ATTENDANCE RECORDS GO TO DIE: Six of the top-22 best-attended regular season matches in the history of collegiate soccer have occurred at Spanos Stadium and all have been recorded since the start of the 2007 season. In total, Cal Poly has been involved in eight of the top 22 best-attended matches.
RECORD-SMASHING DAY: Cal Poly had notched just seven goals in 10 games before producing a 5-0 dismantling of UC Riverside (Oct. 9). The five-goal haul marked Cal Poly's highest output in 44 matches at Spanos Stadium as well as serving as the largest margin of victory at the complex. Cal Poly's highest tally since putting eight past Division II Cal State Monterey Bay on Sept. 1, 2000, the five-goal total also marked the program's highest output in a Big West match. Finally, Cal Poly's victory marked just the second time the Mustangs had hit five goals during Paul Holocher's six-season tenure as head coach.
LOOKING AHEAD (OCT. 24-30): Cal Poly completes the 2011 regular season schedule with pivotal matches against No. 9 and Big West-leading UC Irvine (5-2-1, 13-4-1) at home on Tuesday, Nov. 1 and at No. 23 and central coast rival UC Santa Barbara (3-4-0, 10-5-1) on Friday, Nov. 4. Both matches get underway at 7 p.m. UC Irvine hosts UC Riverside on Saturday, Oct. 29 before visiting Cal Poly. UC Santa Barbara visits cellar-dwelling Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 29 before visiting Cal State Northridge on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The Mustang program will honor its six outgoing senior players prior to its Nov. 1 showdown versus UC Irvine. Cal Poly's Nov. 4 fixture will be televised live nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.
FEIGHNER SELECTED FOR LOWE'S SENIOR CLASS AWARD: Wes Feighner (Los Alamitos, Calif.) made athletics department history on Aug. 17 by becoming the first men's soccer player and just the second Cal Poly athlete to be named as a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Feighner, a three-year captain who has started 65 of 66 games during his career, was one of 30 finalists for the honor, which recognizes outstanding performances in the classroom, community and on the playing field. A kinesiology major, Feighner was honored in March as Cal Poly's Big West Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the 2010-11 academic term. A seven-time selection to the Dean's List at Cal Poly, Feighner was also named to the Big West Academic Fall All-Conference team in 2009 and 2010. On the field, Feighner earned All-Big West and NSCAA All-Far West Region second team praise last year after starting all 18 of Cal Poly's matches and compiling three assists. Feighner's disciplinary record is nearly spotless, with just one yellow card in 55 matches. In the community, Feighner volunteers time for clinics at local schools through Cal Poly's Student of the Game program and has helped local AYSO coaches organize practices and strategize for matches. As a kinesiology major and through the department's PolyFIT program, Feighner helps administer body composition tests for students to be aware of potential cardiovascular disease and other health risks. The list of 30 candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season.
ETC.: Cal Poly's only victory when getting outshot this season was a 1-0 triumph at then-No. 7 UC Irvine (Sept. 28) … Cal Poly has trailed at halftime just twice this season with the Mustangs down 2-0 versus Denver (Sept. 25) and 1-0 at Cal State Fullerton (Oct. 19) … Cal Poly's Aug. 27 victory versus UNLV marked sixth-year head coach Paul Holocher's 100th match in charge of the Mustangs and the program's 5-0 slaughtering of UC Riverside on Oct. 9 marked his 50th victory at Cal Poly … Cal Poly's five-match home stand to open the regular season was the third longest such streak in program history (the Mustangs went 4-0-3 to close the 1997 season and also played six-successive home matches during the 2006 campaign).