SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — The Cal Poly women's soccer team returns home this week following a three-game road trip, as the Mustangs will host Hawai'i in Alex G. Spanos Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday to continue Big West Conference play.
Cal Poly then visits Cal State Fullerton Sunday afternoon, with kickoff set for 2 p.m. in Titan Stadium.
The top four schools in the conference standings qualify for the Big West Tournament, scheduled for Nov. 1 (semifinals) and Nov. 4 (the championship match). The Big West table awards 3 points per win and 1 per draw.
Hawai'i comes in tied for fourth place in the standings, upon 6 points at 2-2-0 (7-5-1 overall). Raisa Strom-Okimoto leads the Rainbow Wahine with eight goals and three assists, while Leialoha Medeiros has added seven goals along with four assists in the UH attack.
Alexis Mata has a 1.24 GAA and a save percentage of .802 in goal for Hawai'i. The Oct. 19 game is also part of Mustang Family Weekend at Spanos Stadium.
Nano Oroñoz has tallied a team-best five goals for Cal State Fullerton, which begins the week with 1 point at 0-3-1 (3-10-2 overall). Kristen Swales and Atlanta Primus have also added four goals apiece for the Titans, defending Big West Tournament champions.
Tianna Sanders maintains a save percentage of .732 to go with a 1.50 GAA for CSF. The match was recently added to the WatchESPN / ESPN3 lineup. (WatchESPN broadcasts are available on all connected devices.)
The Mustangs enter the week with 4 points, in eighth at 1-3-1, three back of third place with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Cal Poly (1-11-4 overall) has played three consecutive double-overtime games all on the road: a scoreless draw at UC Riverside on Oct. 5 followed by 2-1 and 1-0 golden-goal losses on Oct. 7 (at UC Irvine) and Oct. 11 (Long Beach State).
Defending regular-season champion UC Irvine will host the tournament, provided the first-place Anteaters (11 points; 7-5-3, 3-0-2) make the four-team field. If, however, UCI were to fall out of the top four, hosting rights would then go to this year's No. 1 seed (a new format for 2018).
KNAUER LEADS ATTACK WITH TRIO OF GOALS: Senior Sydney Knauer tallied her team-leading third goal of the season during the 1-0 win over CSUN on Sept. 28. She chipped into an empty net off a rebound 25 yards away, securing the game-winner in the 53rd minute.
Earlier this season, Knauer also scored against San Jose State (upon 34' Aug. 30) and Santa Clara (60' on Sept. 21). Having played in 59 games as a Mustang, she now has placed 17 of her 28 total career shots on goal.
BROWN NO. 1 IN BIG WEST SAVE PERCENTAGE: With a save percentage of .878 through five Big West games, junior goalkeeper Sophia Brown leads the conference in the category since league play began.
Brown made a career-high 13 saves in earning the mirroring shutout at UCR on Oct. 5 (her second shutout in three games), moving to No. 3 in school history for a career (now with 262 saves).
FRESHMEN FACTOR: 11 of the 12 newcomers from this year's recruiting class have already combined for 128 appearances.
Included in the group of first-year Mustangs making an immediate impact, eight freshmen have combined to start 74 times.
Among the freshmen starters, Mackenzie George (one of 24 players called to attend the USWNT U-19 camp in May) and Megan Hansen each have a goal and an assist; Brooke Rubinstein also has a goal; Emily Talmi and Clare Murphy have one assist each; and Ava McCray has placed six of her 10 total shots on goal. Additionally, Monserrat Hernandez Marquez and Talmi have accounted for 46 of the squad's 71 corner kicks.
OVERTIMES APLENTY: The Mustangs have now played eight overtime games in 2018 — seven of which have gone to double-OT. Cal Poly opened the season with a scoreless draw against Marquette on Aug. 16, with its other ties coming versus San Jose State (1-1 on Aug. 30) and Seattle U (also 1-1 on Sept. 9). With the extra time added, Brown enters this week No. 11 in the nation in minutes played: 1,523.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Among all 335 Division I teams, Cal Poly's NCAA-database strength of schedule ranks No. 18 in the country for 2018. The Mustangs are the only team within the top 20 for schedule difficulty outside of the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East.
INJURIES SHUFFLE LINEUP: In part due to several injuries around the squad, 24 different players have started at least one match for Cal Poly in 2018.
George as well Brown have started all 16 to lead the team.
On Sept. 28, Cal Poly lost senior defender Chelsea Barry 56 minutes into the win over CSUN to a season-ending injury. Barry, who earned Coaches Association All-West Region third-team honors in 2017, had moved to No. 13 in school history for career starts (with 66) and tied for No. 15 on Cal Poly's all-time assist leaderboard (10).
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: Mustang tickets are available at GoPoly.com, by calling (805) 756-4849 or by visiting the sidewalk window at the on-campus Performing Arts Center from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Families are also encouraged to sign up for the Mustang Kids Club ($10 per child 8th grade or under), as over $300 in benefits include ongoing free admission to all 2018-19 regular-season soccer, volleyball, wrestling & women's basketball events along with select football, men's basketball and baseball games; plus invitations to exclusive events; opportunities to be an honorary captain at Mustang home games; a birthday card from Musty; free gelato at SLO Sweets every month (along with birthday scavenger hunts) and a T-Shirt.
Cal Poly students always get into games for free, and are also invited to join the Stang Gang. Stang Gang, Cal Poly's student fan group, features several rewards for a $10 one-time lifetime registration fee, including prizes from sponsors such as Adidas, Amazon, SLO Sweets, Woodstock's Pizza, Eureka! Burger, Splash Café and Frank's Famous Hot Dogs, a member T-Shirt, and more upon reaching point levels by checking in at games.
Links to follow Mustang games live throughout the season can be found above, on the schedule page or via the GoPoly Front Row app.
Photos © Owen Main / Nathan Nybakke