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Pridham Strike Keeps Cal Poly Men’s Soccer in Big West Tournament Hunt

Pridham Strike Keeps Cal Poly Men’s Soccer in Big West Tournament Hunt

DAVIS, Calif. – One of the finest offensive seasons in Cal Poly men's soccer program history only got better on Wednesday afternoon as junior forward Mackenzie Pridham's team-leading 11th goal of the 2012 season helped lift the Mustangs to 1-0 triumph against UC Davis at Aggie Soccer Field.

Cal Poly (10-6-1, 5-3-1) forced UC Davis junior goalkeeper Omar Zeenni into just one save during the first half. In the 51st minute, however, Mustang senior forward Chris Gaschen dribbled through the left side of the Aggie defense before picking out Pridham (right, center), who, with one touch, slotted a shot past Zeenni to help Cal Poly to its first victory at UC Davis since Oct. 7, 2006.

"It was a terrific team goal. (Gaschen) got ahold of the ball on the wing, worked a little combination with (freshman outside back Kip Colvey) and crossed it in for Mackenzie, who beat his defender at the near post," seventh-year Cal Poly head coach Paul Holocher said. "Today we had a really good top-to-bottom team performance. There were moments during the first half when we couldn't get anything going before we started making some opportunities early in the second. The guys are very coachable and they can apply the little things we ask of them and that's what happened today."

Just the third Cal Poly player to enjoy a double-digit goal season, Pridham's 11-goal total is the highest amount by any Mustang since Clay Harty netted a program-record 16 in 1995. Pridham's 23 points this year also rank as the fourth-highest single season total in Mustang history.

With Wednesday's triumph, Cal Poly improved to 16 points in the Big West Conference North Division standings to move into a second-place knot with Sacramento State (8-6-4, 6-3-0). The Hornets dropped a 2-1 home decision against last-place UC Santa Barbara earlier on Wednesday. Division leader UC Davis stayed on 18 points.

Cal Poly need only defeat Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara (10-5-3, 4-4-1) during the Saturday, Nov. 3 regular season finale to claim one of the division's two spots for the Nov. 7 and 10 Big West Tournament. Kickoff at Cal Poly's Alex G. Spanos Stadium is set for 7 p.m. A win by Cal Poly – regardless of the outcome of Saturday's UC Davis-Sacramento State matchup (3 p.m.) – puts the Mustangs in the Big West Tournament. A draw by Cal Poly against UC Santa Barbara and the Mustangs would need UC Davis to top Sacramento State.

Topping CollegeSoccerNews.com's list of the 14 Greatest Rivalries in College Soccer, the Cal Poly-UC Santa Barbara series has drawn 10 of the top 26 regular season crowd figures in NCAA history with all matches occurring during the previous five seasons. Last season's matchup at Spanos Stadium, won by Cal Poly (2-1), drew a sellout figure of 11,075 spectators – the 10th-largest regular season crowd figure in NCAA history. Ten of the last 11 matches between the two sides have been decided by a single goal or drawn. Cal Poly is unbeaten in three successive home matches against UC Santa Barbara.

"We're not focusing on the hype that surrounds this series," said Holocher, whose Cal Poly squad defeated the Gauchos, 2-1, on Oct. 19 to claim the program's first win at UC Santa Barbara's Harder Stadium in 14 years. "We'll focus on playing well and playing our style. I'm proud of this team, proud of this season and, overall, proud of the way we play."

Six minutes after scoring his Big West-leading sixth game-winning goal of 2012, Pridham had the opportunity to double Cal Poly's lead before an attempt was thwarted by Zeenni. Freshman winger Chase Minter also forced Zeenni into a 79th-minute save before striking the post in the 86th.

At the other end of the pitch, freshman goalkeeper Wade Hamilton registered two of his three saves during a seven-second span six minutes from time to preserve the shutout.