SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Following a season-opening five-match home stand, the Cal Poly men's soccer team – solidified by one of the most constrictive defenses among Division I programs – contests its first road matches at the University of Akron Tournament. Cal Poly (2-1-2), which has allowed just two goals in 510 minutes this season and ranks second among Division I programs with four shutouts, opens tournament play against Syracuse (2-2-0) on Friday, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. PT before facing defending national champion and No. 4 Akron (3-0-1) on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. Both matches take place at FirstEnergy Stadium, a venue where the Racers are unbeaten in an NCAA-record 40-straight matches.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: Livestats for both of Cal Poly's matches and streaming video for the program's Sunday showdown versus No. 4 Akron is available HERE.
CAL POLY VERSUS SYRACUSE AND AKRON: The Mustangs have never previously played either Syracuse or Akron. Cal Poly's Sept. 9 triumph versus Villanova was the program's first victory against a Big East Conference foe. The Mustangs have never previously faced a Mid-American Conference opponent during 18 Division I campaigns.
McLAIN GOES NATIONAL: After registering consecutive clean sheets during Cal Poly's 1-0 victory versus Villanova (Sept. 9) and scoreless draw against then-No. 12 West Virginia (Sept. 11), Mustang senior goalkeeper Patrick McLain was named to TopDrawerSoccer.com's College Team of the Week and as the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Having conceded just two goals in five contests this season, McLain enters Friday's match versus Syracuse ranked 10th among NCAA goalkeepers with a Big West-best .353 goals-against average. McLain, who ranks second in Cal Poly history with 14 clean sheets, also leads the Big West this season with four shutouts.
BACKLINE THE BACKBONE: Strengthening goalkeeper Patrick McLain's national standing is a back four that has quickly establish itself as one of the top defensive units in Division I soccer. Having started 23-successive matches together, left back Wes Feighner, right back Cameron Walters (above) and center backs Patrick Sigler and Connor Drechsler have helped Cal Poly post four shutouts this season – a figure that ranks second among Division I programs. Cal Poly has already held an opponent to five shots or fewer on three occasions this year.
HELD IN HIGH REGARD: Cal Poly has compiled a 6-11-8 mark against nationally-ranked opposition under sixth-year head coach Paul Holocher. Akron enters Sunday's showdown as the third-highest ranked opponent the Mustangs have faced under Holocher (during the 2009 season, Cal Poly fell at then-No. 2 Creighton before producing a scoreless home draw versus then-No. 3 UC Santa Barbara). Cal Poly has never defeated a top-10 opponent under Holocher.
SHOTS APLENTY: The Mustangs have totaled just three goals this season, though not through lack of opportunity. Entering Friday's match versus Syracuse, Cal Poly is averaging 15.6 shots per game compared to the opponent's 6.4 figure. Cal Poly has outshot its opponent during every match this season.
COLLINS MAKING HIS MARK: Junior forward Dakota Collins, an offseason transfer from UCLA, followed his first collegiate goal against Seattle (Sept. 4) with his team-leading second strike in Cal Poly 1-0 triumph versus Villanova (Sept. 9). Collins, who has come on as a substitute during three of five matches this season, co-leads Cal Poly with 11 shot attempts.
FORTRESS SPANOS: Cal Poly's first five matches and four of its initial five Big West contests have or will take place inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium, a venue where the Mustangs are 27-6-8 since the 2007 opening. During the past four-plus seasons, the Mustangs have recorded 17 shutout victories at home and Cal Poly's goalkeepers have kept 21 clean sheets. Additionally, Cal Poly has drawn 1,000-plus spectators during 30 of its 41 matches at the complex.
MUSTANGS FACE NATION'S FINEST IN 2011: In what has become a hallmark of sixth-year head coach Paul Holocher's tenure, Cal Poly will again face one of the more testing schedules in Division I soccer during the 2011 campaign. Continuing with a Sept. 18 home clash versus No. 4 Akron, Cal Poly will contest six total matches this season against programs that qualified for the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
MUSTANGS RETURN TO THE SMALL SCREEN: Fox Soccer Channel optioned Cal Poly's Nov. 4 match at UC Santa Barbara, marking the second-successive season and third time in four years that the two rivals have appeared on national television. On FSC last season and before 8,125 spectators – the 13th-largest regular season attendance figure in NCAA history – Chris Gaschen's 93rd-minute strike delivered the Mustangs a 2-1 home victory against UC Santa Barbara. FSC also carried Cal Poly's 2008 home match versus the nationally-ranked Gauchos.
SPANOS STADIUM – WHERE ATTENDANCE RECORDS GO TO DIE: Five of the top-21 best-attended regular season matches in the history of collegiate soccer have occurred at Spanos Stadium and all have been recorded since the start of the 2007 season. In total, Cal Poly has been involved in seven of the top 21 best-attended matches.
FEIGHNER SELECTED FOR LOWE'S SENIOR CLASS AWARD: Wes Feighner (Los Alamitos, Calif.) made athletics department history on Aug. 17 by becoming the first men's soccer player and just the second Cal Poly athlete to be named as a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Feighner, a three-year captain who has started 54 of 55 games during his career, is one of 30 finalists for the honor, which recognizes outstanding performances in the classroom, community and on the playing field. A kinesiology major, Feighner was honored in March as Cal Poly's Big West Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the 2010-11 academic term. A seven-time selection to the Dean's List at Cal Poly, Feighner was also named to the Big West Academic Fall All-Conference team in 2009 and 2010. On the field, Feighner earned All-Big West and NSCAA All-Far West Region second team praise last year after starting all 18 of Cal Poly's matches and compiling three assists. Feighner's disciplinary record is nearly spotless, with just one yellow card in 55 matches. In the community, Feighner volunteers time for clinics at local schools through Cal Poly's Student of the Game program and has helped local AYSO coaches organize practices and strategize for matches. As a kinesiology major and through the department's PolyFIT program, Feighner helps administer body composition tests for students to be aware of potential cardiovascular disease and other health risks. The list of 30 candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season.
LOOKING AHEAD (SEPT. 19-25): Cal Poly completes preparations for Big West Conference play by hosting Denver on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. The Pioneers (0-2-2), selected for the 2010 NCAA Tournament, host Buffalo (Sept. 16) and College of Charleston (Sept. 18) before facing Cal Poly.
ETC.: Cal Poly's Aug. 27 victory versus UNLV marked sixth-year head coach Paul Holocher's 100th match in charge of the Mustangs … after converting just three of nine penalty attempts from 2006-08, Cal Poly has buried its last eight tries from the spot … Cal Poly's five-match home stand to open the regular season was the third longest such streak in program history (the Mustangs went 4-0-3 to close the 1997 season and also played six-successive home matches during the 2006 campaign).