College Soccer News: Cal Poly Holds on to Slim Lead as Big West Conference Women’s Soccer Goes Down to Final Weekend
Although they were picked in a preseason poll to finish sixth in the Big West Conference, the Cal Poly women have shown their mettle by going 5-1-2 (8-6-3 overall, 17 points) to lead the conference by one point over Cal State Northridge (5-1-1/8-4-5, 16 points) and UC Irvine (5-1-1/9-8-1, 16 points). The Mustangs will try to wrap up the regular-season title this week against UC Santa Barbara (2-5-1/5-11-2), after losing their first game on Sunday, October 21, to Cal State Fullerton (5-2-0/8-8-0).
In order to clinch the Big West title, Cal Poly will need some help from Hawai’i (3-4-0/8-8-2) and Long Beach State (4-3-0/11-6-0). The Rainbow Wahine take on UC Irvine while the 49ers host Northridge on Sunday, October 28. On Friday, October 26, the Anteaters and Matadors will face off at UC Irvine. A victory by either side will put the winner in the driver’s seat going into final matches on Sunday.
It was a difficult week for Cal Poly, as UC Riverside (1-5-1/6-9-3) played them to a 1-1 draw in double overtime on Friday, October 19. The Mustangs’ 4-0 loss to the Titans on Sunday was their only defeat so far in conference play and the worst margin since losing 5-1 to BYU on September 13. Goalkeeper Alyssa Gianetti notched 15 saves over the weekend to move to No. 9 on the Big West all-time single season record with 113.
Cal State Northridge made a giant leap forward with a pair of wins over the week. The Matadors opened up their drive with a 6-1 win over last-place Pacific (0-6-1/3-12-1) on Friday night. On Sunday they took a 1-0 win against UC Davis (2-4-1/7-8-2) to move into a second-place tie with UC Irvine, who had defeated Long Beach State 1-0 in double overtime on Saturday with less than a minute to play. Matador goalkeeper Cynthia Jacobo earned her 22nd career shutout on Sunday, tying her for eighth all-time in the Big West. Her 267 career saves put her at No. 9 all-time and her 0.58 goals against average is third best all-time for a season.
Matador senior midfielder Melissa Fernandez was also instrumental in her team’s wins, closing out her career with a pair of game-winning goals. Fernandez scored twice against Pacific on Friday, including the eventual game-winning second goal of the match. On Sunday she netted the only goal of the game, giving her three on the weekend. Fernandez leads the Matadors with a total of 17 points on six goals and five assists. Her efforts earned her Big West Women's Soccer Offensive Player of the Week honors.
It was a week of redemption for UC Riverside, who earned their first point of the season in their draw with Cal Poly on Friday. On Sunday the Highlanders picked up their first conference win as they defeated UC Santa Barbara (2-5-1/5-11-2) by a 1-0 score in their home final. Riverside will close out the season on the road against Pacific on Friday and UC Davis on Sunday.
It was also a special week for senior goalkeeper Jessica White, who made 13 saves against Cal Poly to preserve the tie, the second most all-time for a Highlanders’ net minder. She then posted four more saves against Santa Barbara, including a late penalty kick, to help her team to their first conference win. For her efforts, White was named Big West Women's Soccer Defensive Player of the Week.
Hawaii will make their last trip of the season to the mainland as they visit Long Beach State on Friday and UC Irvine on Sunday. Last week the Rainbow Wahine earned six points with wins over UC Davis (3-2) and Pacific (2-1). A successful final weekend will put them solidly in mid-table, after being picked to finish dead last in the preseason poll.
The season has been something of a disappointment for Long Beach State, who were picked to finish at the top in the preseason poll, with nine first-place votes. The 49ers have dropped three matches in double overtime this year, beginning with a 3-2 loss to Texas Tech and continuing with conference losses to Cal Poly (3-4 on October 7) and UC Irvine (1-0 on October 20). With home games against Hawai’i and Cal State Northridge, the 49ers hope to move up in the ranks and possibly play a spoiler role.
With 12 points currently, there is an outside chance that Long Beach could close out the season in first if they win both weekend matches. Northridge and Irvine would need to play to a draw on Friday and both Irvine and Cal Poly would need to lose on Sunday for that to happen. That would leave Long Beach State at the top with 18 points and Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly and UC Irvine tied for second with 17 points each.
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