Gauchos One Step Closer To Title After Draw At Poly

Josh McNeely (Photo by Francis Lipinski)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – In front of a sellout crowd of 11,075 at Cal Poly's Spanos Stadium, a spectacular four-save performance from UCSB freshman goalkeeper Josh McNeely and a late first half strike from senior forward Achille Campion resulted in a 1-1 draw for the Gauchos.

It was the first tie of the season for the Gauchos, whose record went to 11-4-1 as the  team is unbeaten in their last eight contests. Now at 6-0-1 in conference play, Tim Vom Steeg's side needs just one point from its remaining three games to clinch the Big West North Division title, which comes with a bye in the first round of the conference tournament and home field advantage for at least the semifinal match.

Cal Poly was the first team to get on the board in Friday night's contest. On an eighth minute corner kick, midfielder George Malki found Justin Dhillon at the back post, and the winger's shot got past McNeely for the 1-0 lead. The goal came shortly after the Gauchos lost senior center back Peter Schmetz for the game.

McNeely was flawless from that point on, turning in arguably his best performance so far as a Gaucho. The Calabasas, Calif. native twice denied Mackenzie Pridham, the leading goalscorer in the conference, from close range with diving stops.

McNeely saved his two best stops for the latter half of the game. In the 54th minute, Pridham played a through ball across the box to Ari Lassiter, who was all alone in on goal. McNeely came out to meet Lassiter and threw his body at the shot to deny the scoring opportunity. Finally, in overtime McNeely sprawled to his left and was able to just get his palm on a Pridham laser to send the shot wide and keep the match going.

On offense, Campion provided the majority of UCSB's dangerous scoring chances, including the team's only goal. In the final minute of the first half, freshman Nick DePuy took a throw-in for the Gauchos, heaving the ball towards the Cal Poly goal. A misplayed clearance attempt by a Mustangs defender led to the ball coming to Campion, and with a Mustang defender draped on his back, wheeled and buried a right footed shot for his team leading seventh goal of the season.

The Gauchos appeared primed to take the lead in the second half when freshman midfielder Drew Murphy served a perfect ball to a streaking Campion just outside the 18 yard box. Campion's volley attempt beat the Cal Poly keeper, but clanged off the post. The French striker's follow-up attempt was cleared off the line by the Mustangs' Ruben Duran.

UCSB had the better of the run of play in the second-half, outshooting the Mustangs 8-3.

The Gauchos will return to Harder Stadium next Saturday night, Nov. 2 to host UC Davis with a chance to clinch the Big West North title. For tickets to that game, call 805-893-UCSB or click here.