IRVINE – Sophomore goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado (above) chalked up two saves Saturday evening, but two goals from UC Irvine midfielder Christian Gutierrez either side of halftime marked the difference as the Mustangs saw a three-match winning streak snapped with a 2-0 loss.
Despite Saturday's defeat, Cal Poly (7-7-1, 3-3-0) still qualified for the Big West Conference Tournament for the first time since 2015 following the results of the remaining three conference matches on Saturday. With nine points, Cal Poly sits in fourth place in the conference standings and trails Big West co-leaders UC Irvine (7-5-5, 4-1-1) and UC Davis (11-4-2, 4-1-1) by four points and third place UC Santa Barbara (10-3-5, 3-1-3) by two points. The Mustangs were assured of a Big West Tournament spot after UC Santa Barbara finished in a scoreless draw at seventh place CSUN (6-7-4, 1-3-2).
With the top six programs in the eight-team standings qualifying for the Nov. 6, 9 and 16 Big West Tournament, Cal Poly can host a Wednesday, Nov. 6 opening-round match with a victory or draw against UC Santa Barbara during the regular season finale for both programs on Saturday, Nov. 2.
With another capacity crowd expected at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, kickoff versus UC Santa Barbara is set for 5 p.m.
Cal Poly produced Saturday's first scoring opportunity with Mustang senior midfielder Diego Alonso turned away by UC Irvine goalkeeper Ford Parker after just 34 seconds.
The Mustangs themselves held UC Irvine without a shot on frame until Arce-Hurtado stopped Anteaters midfielder Eder Oliva in the 18th to keep the scoreline blank.
However, UC Irvine – which outshot Cal Poly to open the match, 9-2 – broke through with its first goal in the 36th minute as defender Seamus McLaughlin played a pass out left for a charging Gutierrez. UC Irvine's midfielder cut right before slotting past Arce-Hurtado at the right post.
Into the second half, Arce-Hurtado chalked up his second save 32 seconds after the restart.
At the other end of Anteater Stadium, Cal Poly was kept to its two shot attempts until senior forward JoeMack Leonardo saw an attempt saved by Parker in the 68th minute.
UC Irvine, however, doubled its tally 12 minutes from full time with Gutierrez doubling his Saturday total. Anteater midfielder Viktor Falck earned the assist with Gutierrez hitting his second goal of the night from 30 yards.