Last week Cal Poly clinched a 3-2 double overtime thriller in San Luis Obispo in front of 11,075 fans decked out in green and gold.
Junior Kody Wakasa’s header that found the back of the net in the 103rd minute sent Alex G. Spanos Stadium into a frenzy as thousands of Mustangs flooded the field.
It was a night that surely no Mustang will ever forget.
It was Blue Green history and a finish that the Gauchos haven’t quite forgotten either.
“There’s a lot of emotion and motivation when we play Cal Poly no matter what because these guys are our biggest rivals,” said UC Santa Barbara junior Nick DePuy. “Last week playing at Cal Poly in front of their fans, they got the win in overtime which kind of hurt and I think all of the guys over here are really hungry. We get to play in front of our fans now and I’m excited, I can’t wait for the game.”
Having just seen the Mustangs, the Gauchos used the week to study last week’s action.
Said the junior, “We can learn from what gave us problems and we can also learn from what gave them problems – pay attention to things that we can do to defend better. We know where they want to go with the ball, who they want to play with the ball, so we’re going to attack as well.”
Just a short seven days after the overtime decision at Cal Poly, UCSB gets another crack at the Mustangs on a night that is expected to draw around 14,000 fans to the central coast.
“Every year this is probably my favorite [game] to play in,” said DePuy. “When you’re in the late, late minutes of the game and you’re getting tired, you hear the fans and it just gives you some motivation and you want to perform really well for your home [crowd].”
What’s different about this match from last Saturday’s is that they’ll be in Gaucho territory – this time they’ll be in “Soccer Heaven” – a place in which the Mustangs have managed just a single win since 1999.
Said CP senior Chase Minter on the rivalry, “The environment is very special. The stadiums are both built differently and they create different environments, which is good and makes it even more unique. Our field is different than their field, our stadium is different than their stadium so it kind of makes for two different experiences.”
“Our field is a little bigger,” added DePuy. “It gives us an advantage because we like to swing balls out wide and move the ball around and also, I feel like we have the fans on our side. No everybody booing at us and yelling at us, but I think everybody is going to work as hard as we can and get a win in front of our fans.”
The central coast has some of the most faithful soccer fans in the nation, contributing to historic NCAA numbers: 12 of the 18 best-attended regular season NCAA matches since 1980 have featured the Gauchos and the Mustangs and each of the eight most recent showdowns between the two squads have seen crowds of at least 11,000 people.
Dating back to 2007, UCSB has now led the country in highest attendance for eight consecutive years.
“It really is soccer heaven,” shared DePuy. “In my opinion the best field and the best venue I’ve experienced so far in college soccer. Huge soccer stadium, tons of fans, great weather, great soccer.”
According to Cal Poly’s senior forward Matt Lagrassa, the Mustangs are more than ready to take on said “Soccer Heaven” while DePuy is confident the Gauchos are ready to defend it.
It’s safe to say, it will be anther night the Mustangs and the Gauchos will remember for a very, very long time.
Story by Olivia Phelps (@OliviaGPhelps). Video matchup edited by Joe Hood.