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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — The Cal Poly women's soccer team will open its 2016 season this week with a pair of matches on the road.
The Mustangs will first face Cal, ranked No. 18 in the preseason NSCAA Top 25 poll, at 4 p.m. Friday at Edwards Stadium in Berkeley, before traveling to Stockton for a 1 p.m. Sunday kickoff against Pacific at Knoles Field.
Each of the games also are season openers for the Golden Bears and Tigers, although UOP played an exhibition at Nevada on Aug. 12 (falling 3-2 to the Wolf Pack).
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: Admission to home games is free for Cal Poly students all fall. For the general public, tickets can be bought at GoPoly.com, by calling (805) 756-4849 or by visiting the sidewalk windows at the on-campus Performing Arts Center or Rec. Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.
Links to live stats, video and audio of Mustang games can be found on the schedule page at GoPoly.com.
CAL POLY VS. CAL: This will be the third straight year the two teams have met. Last fall, the Mustangs played the Golden Bears to a scoreless draw in Alex G. Spanos Stadium, following a 2-1 Cal victory on an 85th-minute game-winning goal in 2014.
Cal leads the all-time series 5-2-1. Cal Poly earned a 1-0 overtime win over the then-No. 7-ranked team in the nation in 2009 at Goldman Field, with the other win coming at home in 1995, 2-1.
Cal is led by senior Arielle Ship, the 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year after scoring 14 goals to go with six assists.
CAL POLY VS. PACIFIC: It's the first time the Mustangs have faced their former Big West Conference rival (now in the WCC) since 2012, a 4-1 win in San Luis Obispo that gave Cal Poly a 16-3-1 advantage in the all-time series.
Cal Poly's last trip to UOP came in 2011, edging the Tigers 2-1.
Alex Hussar led Pacific with four goals, 10 other shots on frame, and an assist as a junior in 2015, while junior Lena Perry (an .806 saves percentage and 1.55 GAA last year) is also a returning starter in goal.
MUSTANGS IN THE RECORD BOOK: With 20 career assists, senior Megan Abutin is five away from breaking the school record set by Kolleen Kassis from 1992-95. Her 20 assists also rank No. 15 among all current Division I players.
A preseason all-conference selection and a 2014 all-regional honoree, Abutin has also scored 14 goals over the past three seasons. Her NCAA point total (2 for goals; 1 per assist) of 48 ranks 11th all-time at Cal Poly. Additionally, with 58 career appearances, she's 18 away from joining the all-time Mustang top 20 in games played.
FOUR MORE BIG WEST HONOREES ALSO RETURN: In addition to Abutin (twice an all-conference team member), fellow seniors Kendra Bonsall and Nicole Wheeler earned All-Big West honorable mention in 2014.
Junior midfielder Emily Hansen was also the league's Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 14 last season, and sophomore forward Caitlyn Kreutz was a Big West All-Freshman Team selection.
As two of the conference's most experienced players in midfield and defense, Bonsall (with 52 career games including 42 starts, four goals, two assists and 12 additional shots on target) and Wheeler (45 matches & 33 starts including 11 shutouts over 3,002 minutes) help lead a class of 10 seniors.
Kreutz, a Philippines National Team member, returned to the U.S. after playing at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Football Federation Championship in Myanmar in July. She had a team-leading seven goals during her 2015 debut, which also included an all-tournament accolade at the Virginia Nike Soccer Classic.
Hansen and junior defender Gianna Rosati (another leader in nine shutouts) have also each started 36 games since 2014.
NEW STARTER IN GOAL: Following the graduation of Alyssa Giannetti, who played a school-record 77 games between the posts from 2012-15, Cal Poly will debut a first-year starter at goalkeeper this weekend.
After redshirting last season, Brittney Viboch helped the Mustangs go 3-0-3 in the spring exhibition season in April and May, while another junior, Domenique Banta, joined the program as a transfer from Fresno State.
Freshmen Sophia Brown and Rachael Haaland were among the team's seven National Letter of Intent signees in February.
MUSTANGS IN THE PROS: Giannetti, who has started all 13 matches in 2016 for Arna-Bjørnar FC in Norway, is one of two former Mustangs currently in their rookie seasons as professionals. In a poll of Toppserien coaches by Kvinnefotball, Giannetti was voted as the league's best goalkeeper through the first half of the season (during which she saved penalties in 1-0 shutouts over Klepp and Sandviken on June 18 and July 2).
Forward Elise Krieghoff (also 2012-15) has played 127 minutes in five games for the Boston Breakers in the NWSL this year. The school record-holder for goals (52) has taken two shots (one on goal), and most recently came on as a 68th-minute sub in Boston's 1-0 win over the Orlando Pride on July 31.
Cal Poly Women's Soccer to Open 2016 Season at No. 18 Cal, Pacific
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