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Cal Poly Begins 2016 Season at No. 8 North Carolina, No. 5 Wake Forest

Cal Poly Begins 2016 Season at No. 8 North Carolina, No. 5 Wake Forest


SAN LUIS OBISPO – The Cal Poly men's soccer team opens the regular season against a pair of ranked opponents for the first time in program history when visiting No. 8 North Carolina on Friday, Aug. 26 and No. 5 Wake Forest on Sunday, Aug. 28. Both matches kick off at 4:30 p.m. PT for Cal Poly, which returns five starters and 15 letterwinners from last season's squad that matched a program record with 11 victories and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Mustangs, opening the year on the road for the fourth time in the past five years, are 14-8-0 in season-opening matches at the Division I level. North Carolina, the highest ranked program Cal Poly has ever faced in a season opener, finished 15-2-3 last season and reached the third round of the NCAA Championship. The top seed for last year's NCAA Championship, Wake Forest finished 17-3-2 in 2015 after reaching the NCAA Championships quarterfinals.

FOLLOW CAL POLY THIS WEEK: Streaming video of Cal Poly's season opener at North Carolina will be available via through ACC Network Extra HERE. Live stats from both of this weeks matches will also be available via HERE.

CAL POLY VERSUS NORTH CAROLINA, WAKE FOREST AND THE ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE: The Mustangs have never previously faced either the Tar Heels or Demon Deacons. Cal Poly last faced an ACC program on Aug. 31, 2014, topping North Carolina 3-1 at home. In 23 Division I seasons, Cal Poly has only faced five current ACC member programs – Boston College, Clemson, North Carolina State, Notre Dame and Syracuse – and chalked up a combined 2-4-0 record.

MUSTANGS ON THE BALLOT: Cal Poly received four votes in the preseason edition of the NSCAA Division I poll and opens the regular season 21 points behind No. 25 Rutgers. No. 13 UC Santa Barbara is the only other Big West program ranked or receiving votes in the poll.

TALENT AGENCIES: Players from Cal Poly (three), North Carolina (three) and Wake Forest (two) accounted for eight of the 81 – 9.8 percent – selections in the 2016 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

CRAM SESSION: Cal Poly completed preparations for the regular season with home exhibitions against No. 1 Stanford (Aug. 17) and Loyola Marymount (Aug. 21). The Mustangs fell to defending national champion Stanford 2-1 after the Cardinal scored with nine seconds remaining in regulation and lost to LMU 1-0.

CAL POLY CLIFFSNOTES: Up top, Cal Poly brings back nine of its 12 goalscorers from last year. The program's leading returning scorer in senior forward Justin Dhillon, who finished third in Cal Poly's lineup last year with three goals, eight points and 27 shot attempts. All three of Dhillon's goals last year were game-winning efforts, as were both of junior forward Kaba Alkebulan's goals. Debuting in the Mustang lineup last year, sophomore and 2015 Big West All-Freshman Team selection George Grote finished third among conference players with six assists while fellow forward Jared Pressley notched two goals last season – including one with six seconds remaining in regulation to force a 2-2 draw at Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara in front of 14,919 fans. Also scoring for Cal Poly last year and returning are junior forwards Adam Olsen and Ismail Seremba.

In defense, Cal Poly's most capped active player is senior Kody Wakasa who requires just 14 appearances to become the program's all-time leader. Wakasa, whose first career goal last season delivered the Mustangs a 3-2 home victory against UC Santa Barbara in front of a sellout crowd of 11,075 at Spanos Stadium, started all 21 matches last year and led Cal Poly's outfield players by appearing in 96.3 percent of a possible 2,008 minutes in 2015.

Wakasa is joined among returning defenders by senior Ruben Duran, who started in 20 of 21 matches and scored twice; senior Jack O'Connor (top), who has enjoyed 10 starts the past two years and finished second in Cal Poly's lineup last season with three assists; senior Björn Sandberg, who started seven of 21 games in 2015 and added a goal and junior Trenton Matson, who helped Cal Poly to a 7-2-4 record and five shutouts during the 13 matches in which he started.

In goal, the Mustangs will debut a new goalkeeper for the first time since 2012 following the departure of two-time Big West Goalkeeper of the Year honoree Wade Hamilton, who started every game for the Mustangs the previous three seasons. Deputizing the past two years each, junior Eric Kam and sophomore Simon Boehme are expected to compete for the starting spot.

MUSTANGS FACE NATION'S FINEST IN 2016: Five of Cal Poly's 17 regular season matches will take place against programs ranked or receiving votes in the preseason edition of the NSCAA Division I poll. Additionally, Cal Poly hosted No. 1 Stanford for an Aug. 17 exhibition.

HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE: After turning in the first undefeated home season in the 10-year history of Alex G. Spanos Stadium in 2015, Cal Poly's undefeated home streak stands at nine matches. Overall, the Mustangs are 54-19-14 since the venue's 2007 opening. During the last nine seasons, the Mustangs have recorded 29 shutout victories at home while Cal Poly's goalkeepers have kept 35 clean sheets. Additionally, Cal Poly has drawn 1,000-plus spectators during 61 of 87 matches at Spanos Stadium and sold out the 11,075-capacity complex six times.

MUSTANGS FILL THE HOUSE: Cal Poly has finished among the nation's top 10 attendance leaders during all previous nine seasons at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Below is a year-by-year listing of Cal Poly's home attendance achievements among 205 Division I programs.

SPANOS STADIUM – WHERE ATTENDANCE RECORDS GO TO DIE: Ten of the top 43 best-attended regular season matches in the history of collegiate soccer have occurred at Alex G. Spanos Stadium and all have been recorded since the start of the 2007 season. In total, Cal Poly has been involved in 16 of the top 43 best-attended regular season matches in collegiate soccer history.