SAN LUIS OBISPO – Freshman midfielder Christian Enriquez (above) scored his first collegiate goal Saturday evening to provide the Cal Poly men's soccer program the early lead versus Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara, but in front of a sellout crowd of 11,075 – a figure matching the 13th largest regular season crowd in NCAA history – the Gauchos scored twice without reply as the Mustangs fell 2-1 inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
During a match that sold out more than two days in advance of kickoff, Cal Poly junior goalkeeper Eric Kam notched a single save while the Mustangs placed four attempts on target versus UC Santa Barbara goalkeeper Titouan Le Roux. However, Gaucho midfielder Kevin Feucht's 63rd-minute penalty was the decisive blow.
Saturday's decision marked the 16th time in the last 19 meetings between Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara that a match in the series has been decided by a single goal or drawn. The loss was just Cal Poly's third at Spanos Stadium against UC Santa Barbara in 10 meetings at the complex.
The 11,075-fan figure marked the program's seventh sellout crowd in the 10-year history of Spanos Stadium. The nine combined matches between Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara since 2012 are the nine highest attended collegiate soccer games in the United States, outranking every NCAA Tournament and College Cup contest.
With his 79th career appearance during the match, Mustang senior defender Kody Wakasa matched the program record for games played jointly held by defender Patrick Sigler (2008-11) and forward David Zamora (2007-10)
With the defeat, Cal Poly (3-8-2, 1-4-1) stayed on four points in the Big West North Division standings and still trails third-place Sacramento State (6-6-2, 2-3-1) by three points with four regular season matches remaining. UC Santa Barbara (8-5-2, 4-0-2) ran its division-leading point total to 14 with Saturday's win.
Mustang senior forward Justin Dillon forced Le Roux into a 13th-minute save and Cal Poly broke through with Saturday's opening goal in the 30th, as Enriquez dribbled through UC Santa Barbara's midfield before unleashing his goal from 20 yards away.
UC Santa Barbara, however, required less than three minutes to equalize as forward Ahinga Selemani latched onto a loose ball in the Mustang penalty area and fired past Kam from 10 yards and into the bottom right corner of the net.
The Gauchos then forced the winning goal in the 63rd, beginning with UC Santa Barbara forward Nick DePuy judged to have been fouled in the Mustang penalty area dribbling toward goal. Feucht stepped to the spot and converted the penalty to place the Gauchos up 2-1.
The Mustangs responded with a handful of attempts to deadlock the game. Sophomore forward Jared Pressley saw a point-blank attempt kicked away by a sliding Le Roux in the 75th before junior forward Ramiro Molina-Valerio dragged a shot wide of the left post in the 78th. Enriquez also saw an attempt turned away by Le Roux in the 78th.
Cal Poly opens a three-match road trip when visiting Sacramento State on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 3:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Ray Ambler