Oct. 18, 2007
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Junior forward Anthony Grillo's goal at the 48:40 mark lifted Cal Poly to a 2-1 Big West Conference victory over No. 10 UC Santa Barbara in front of a school-record crowd of 7,143 Wednesday night at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. David Walker scored for the defending champs in the 45th minute in what became their first loss in conference play this season.
With the win, Cal Poly moves into sole possession of first place in the conference standings at 4-0-1 and improves to 9-1-1 overall. UCSB had won 12 straight in the series coming in to Wednesday's match and fell to 6-3-3 (3-1-1 Big West) with the defeat. The loss snapped the Gauchos' six-match unbeaten streak and was their first since they dropped a 2-1 decision at New Mexico September 16.
Energized by their home crowd, the Mustangs were the aggressors early on and came out firing. Reigning Big West Player of the Week David Zamora had an early look in the 4th minute from 10 yards out, but freshman goalkeeper Bryant Rueckner was there for the save. Zamora had another chance roughly four minutes later, but his header sailed wide right.
The freshman forward continued to lead the Cal Poly attack and gave the Mustangs a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute. After the Gauchos were whistled for a foul just outside the box, Zamora lined up for a free kick straight on from 25 yards out and placed a bending shot to the right side of the goal just 15:58 into the match.
The Gauchos, who had yet to record a shot at that point, immediately picked things up offensively trailing 1-0. Senior forward Tino Nuñez had an opportunity from the left side of the box in the 18th minute, but Mustang keeper Eric Branagan-Franco was there for the save.
UCSB's next chance came in the 24th on a Ciaran O'Brien free kick from the right side, but junior midfielder Chris Pontius' header was denied by Branagan-Franco, as well.
Santa Barbara finally answered with the equalizer at the 44:26 mark. After a Cal Poly foul, O'Brien sent a sweeping cross into the box for David Walker. The sophomore midfielder placed a header down and inside the left post to tie the score with 34 seconds remaining in the opening period.
It was Walker's first goal of the season and first since he scored in the 44th minute at third-seeded SMU in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos won that game 3-1.
Both teams took five shots in the first half and UCSB held a 2-1 advantage on corner kicks.
The Mustangs needed just 3:40 in the second period to take a 2-1 lead when Grillo scored at the 48:40 mark. On a tap-and-go, midfielder Tim White crossed through the box for Grillo and the forward scored to the far post past the outstretched arms of Rueckner for the eventual game-winner.
UCSB was not without its chances in the second half, out-shooting the home team 7-2 in the period. O'Brien, who led the team with four shots in the match, had several opportunities with the first coming on a short corner from the right side in the 52nd minute. His shot from the wing was saved by Branagan-Franco. The Tacoma, Wash. native was denied by the Mustang keeper once again in the 56th on a shot from almost the exact same spot on the field.
The Gauchos' best opportunity to tie the game came in the 61st minute when O'Brien fired from 27 yards outs above the center of the box, but his curling shot missed just outside the right post.
The rest of the match was played mostly in between the boxes as time ran down and Santa Barbara went on to lose to the Mustangs for the first time in seven years.
Playing without All-American Andy Iro, who had to watch the match from the stands after receiving a red card against UC Davis last week, Santa Barbara's defense played well and limited Cal Poly to just seven shots for the match. UCSB finished with 12 and recorded five corners to the Mustangs' two.
The Gauchos will look to bounce back when they return to the pitch this Saturday at UC Riverside. Kickoff is slated for 3:00 p.m.