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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Cal Poly men's soccer program opens its 11th season of Big West Conference competition at No. 7 UC Irvine on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Kickoff at Anteater Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m. Cal Poly (3-3-2), which has finished among the top-three programs in the Big West standings during each of the previous four seasons, hasn't defeated UC Irvine on the road since Nov. 3, 2004 (suffering five-successive defeats in the process). UC Irvine (8-1-0) is Cal Poly's third ranked opponent during the previous five matches.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: Livestats for Cal Poly's Wednesday showdown at No. 7 UC Irvine are available HERE.
FEAST OR FAMINE: Cal Poly enters Wednesday's matchup ranked second among Big West programs with four shutouts and seven total goals conceded through eight matches. UC Irvine, meanwhile, has found the back of the net a conference-leading 22 times and averages 2.44 goals per match. The Mustangs have allowed more than two goals during a match just once this year while the Anteaters have scored three goals or more in a game four times in 2011.
HELD IN HIGH REGARD: Cal Poly has compiled a 6-13-8 mark against nationally-ranked opposition under sixth-year head coach Paul Holocher. No. 7 UC Irvine enters Wednesday's showdown as the fourth-highest ranked opponent the Mustangs have faced under Holocher (in 2009, Cal Poly fell at then-No. 6 Creighton before drawing then-No. 3 UC Santa Barbara. Cal Poly also dropped a 1-0 decision at No. 4 Akron on Sept. 18). Cal Poly has never defeated a top-10 ranked opponent under Holocher.
FRESH FACES EMERGE FOR MUSTANGS: An offseason transfer from Saint Louis, junior forward Benny Estes became the fourth different player to record his first goal as a Mustang when notching in the 72nd-minute against Denver on Sept. 25. Estes also leads Cal Poly with 15 shot attempts. Junior forward Dakota Collins (above), an offseason transfer from UCLA, leads the Mustangs with a pair of goals after scoring versus Seattle (Sept. 4) and Villanova (Sept. 9). Sophomore forward Ian Clark tallied his first goal as a Mustang during the program's 1-0 season-opening victory against UNLV on Aug. 27. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Pridham collected his first collegiate goal and notched the match-winning strike during a 2-1 victory versus Syracuse on Sept. 16.
BACKLINE REMAINS THE BACKBONE: Senior goalkeeper Patrick McLain enters Wednesday's match at No. 7 UC Irvine ranked second among conference goalkeepers with four shutouts and a 0.73 goals-against average. Strengthening his play is a back four that has established itself as one of the top defensive units in Division I soccer. Having started 26-successive matches together, left back Wes Feighner, right back Cameron Walters and center backs Patrick Sigler and Connor Drechsler have helped Cal Poly combine on the four shutouts – the fourth-highest total among Division I programs. Cal Poly has already held an opponent to five shots or fewer on three occasions this year.
SHOTS APLENTY: The Mustangs have totaled just six goals this season, though not through lack of opportunity. Entering Wednesday's match at No. 7 UC Irvine, Cal Poly is averaging 14.6 shots per game compared to the opponent's 7.6 figure. Cal Poly, which produced a season-high 20 shot attempts versus both then-No. 12 West Virginia (Sept. 11) and against Denver (Sept. 25), has outshot its opponent during all but one match this year.
BIG WEST EXCELLENCE: Only one Big West program – central coast foe UC Santa Barbara – has totaled more conference points, produced more conference victories and suffered fewer conference defeats than Cal Poly since Mustang head coach Paul Holocher's 2006 arrival. Below are the composite Big West standings since the start of the 2006 conference schedule.
Big West Standings (2006-Present)
1. UC Santa Barbara (36-9-7) – 115 points
2. Cal Poly (25-15-12) – 87
3. UC Irvine (25-17-10) – 85
4. Cal State Northridge (19-21-12) – 69
5. UC Davis* (18-17-7) – 61
6. Cal State Fullerton (15-32-5) – 50
7. UC Riverside (8-36-8) – 32
*Joined Big West in 2007
PAYING THE PENALTY: Cal Poly saw a streak of eight-successive converted penalties snapped when sophomore midfielder George Malki had his 27th-minute attempt saved versus Denver on Sept. 25. Cal Poly, which converted each of its three penalty attempts last season and all five in 2009, last missed from the spot on Nov. 5, 2008 during a scoreless draw at then-No. 17 UC Santa Barbara – a span of 49 matches.
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 27-7-8 since the venue's 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 31 of its 42 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 an Oct. 14 home clash versus No. 10 UC Santa Barbara, 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 62 of 63 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 (OCT. 3-9): Cal Poly opens a four-match conference home stand when hosting UC Davis on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. and UC Riverside on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. Cal Poly has prevailed during its four previous home meetings against UC Davis (2-4-2), which opens Big West play by hosting Cal State Northridge on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 3 p.m. The Mustangs are unbeaten in six-successive matches versus UC Riverside (5-2-1), which opens its Big West campaign by hosting No. 10 UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.
ETC.: A 2-0 halftime deficit versus Denver (Sept. 25) marks the only time Cal Poly has trailed at the break this season … senior forward 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 eight of its previous nine tries from the spot (2009-present) … 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).