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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Cal Poly men's soccer program returns to Alex G. Spanos Stadium to close the non-conference portion of its 2011 regular season schedule on Sunday, Sept. 25 against Denver. Match time is scheduled for 1 p.m. Unbeaten during 10 of their previous 11 contests at Spanos Stadium, the Mustangs (3-2-2) have allowed just four goals in 690 minutes this season and rank third among Division I programs with four shutouts. Including a 2-2 draw at then-No. 14 Notre Dame (Sept. 9), half of Denver's initial six matches this season have come against nationally-ranked opposition. The Pioneers (1-3-2) face fellow Big West foe Cal State Fullerton on Friday before visiting the central coast.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: GameTracker for Cal Poly's Sunday showdown versus Denver is available HERE.
CAL POLY VERSUS DENVER: Following last year's 1-0 season-opening victory at Denver in which forward Chris Gaschen's 88th-minute strike accounted for the difference, Cal Poly owns a 2-1-2 Division I series edge against the Pioneers.
MONTY BACK ON THE MOVE: Senior midfielder Kyle Montgomery has shown zero signs of rust after missing the previous two seasons. Montgomery, who totaled a program-record 10 assists as a sophomore in 2008, notched his first goal in nearly two years to spur Cal Poly's 2-1 victory against Syracuse (Sept. 16). Having started every match for Cal Poly, Montgomery leads the Mustangs with 13 shot attempts.
TAKE PRIDE IN PRIDHAM: Sophomore forward Mackenzie Pridham's first collegiate goal carried extra significance for Cal Poly as his 49th-minute score stood as the game-winning strike during a 2-1 victory against Syracuse (Sept. 16). Pridham (above), who registered just four shot attempts in 13 appearances as a freshman in 2009 before redshirting last season, ranks third among Mustangs in 2011 with 11 attempts.
McLAIN GOES NATIONAL: Despite conceding a goal during each of his last two appearances, senior Patrick McLain still ranks as one of the top goalkeepers in Division I soccer. Named to TopDrawerSoccer.com's College Team of the Week and as the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 13, McLain enters Sunday's match versus Denver ranked 15th among Division I goalkeepers with a Big West Conference-leading .522 goals-against average. McLain's four shutouts this year have brought his career clean sheet tally to 14, a mark that ranks second in Mustang program history.
BACKLINE THE BACKBONE: Strengthening goalkeeper Patrick McLain's national resonance is a back four that has unequivocally established itself as one of the top defensive units in Division I soccer. Having started 25-successive matches together, left back Wes Feighner, right back Cameron Walters and center backs Patrick Sigler and Connor Drechsler have helped Cal Poly post four shutouts this season – the third-highest figure among Division I programs. Cal Poly has already held an opponent to five shots or fewer on three occasions this year.
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's 1-0 triumph versus Villanova (Sept. 9). Collins, who has come on as a substitute during four of six matches this season, ranks third among Mustangs with 11 shot attempts.
SHOTS APLENTY: The Mustangs have totaled just five goals this season, though not through lack of opportunity. Entering Sunday's match versus Denver, Cal Poly is averaging 13.9 shots per game compared to the opponent's 7.6 figure. Cal Poly has outshot its opponent during all but one match this year.
FORTRESS SPANOS: Four of Cal Poly's initial five Big West contests 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. 25 home clash versus Denver, 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 61 of 62 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. 26-OCT. 2): Cal Poly kicks off its 11th season of Big West competition at No. 8 UC Irvine (7-1-0) on Wednesday, Sept. 28 before opening a four-match home stand versus UC Davis (2-3-2) on Saturday, Oct. 5. UC Irvine completes its pre-Big West slate by hosting UNLV on Friday, Sept. 23. UC Davis, meanwhile, opens a three-match home stand against Sacramento State on Sept. 23. Cal Poly has defeated UC Irvine at home just once in five previous attempts while the Mustangs have won their last four home meetings versus the Aggies.
ETC.: Kyle Montgomery's 14th-minute strike versus Syracuse (Sept. 16) marks the only time Cal Poly has scored during a first half this season … 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).