The Cal Poly men’s soccer season started like any other. The opening game was 15 minutes away from ending like any other ho-hum 2-1 road loss.
But the Mustangs rattled off three goals in a comeback win.
They’ve hardly stopped scoring since.
“That kind of set the bar for us saying we know what it’s like to be in that position,” sophomore midfielder Chase Minter said of the season-opening 4-2 win at Drake. “Just continue playing and know that it’s going to come if you keep pushing, and it’s shown a couple of times this year. It’s good to see success in adversity.”
Going into tonight’s doubleheader with the Cal Poly women’s soccer team, the Mustangs (7-3-0) lead the nation’s 198 Division I programs with 27 goals.
Cal Poly additionally leads the nation with 79 points and ranks second with 25 assists heading into tonight’s Big West Conference opener at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, where the women will play Long Beach State at 5 p.m. before the men host UC Riverside (5-2-2) at 8.
Senior forward Mackenzie Pridham leads the Big West with eight goals and 18 points, and Minter paces the conference and ranks third in the country with six assists, four of which have either been equalizers or game-winners.
The Mustangs have four multi-score victories to their credit, but the other three have followed the theme established in the season opener and come in dramatic fashion.
In a 3-2 victory over Penn in mid-September, Cal Poly scored two goals in the final eight minutes to erase a one-goal deficit and earn the win.
In a late September match against Yale, the Mustangs tied the score at 2 with 1:14 left in regulation and won it in overtime. In that game, Cal Poly fell behind 2-0 and scored three unanswered goals.
“We’ve got some clutch players now,” sophomore defender Kody Wakasa said. “Last year, we probably couldn’t do that. This year, we can. So, that’s just a great feeling. Even if we go down a goal, we know we can come back.
“One of the main differences is we’ve finished our chances. That’s key to wining games, and it’s going to help in the long run. We’ve just put away one or two more goals every game, and now we’ve already surpassed the amount of goals we had last year.”
On a six-year winning streak of Big West openers, the Mustangs have won five of their past six matches this season, scoring 20 goals during the span. They had 26 goals all of last season and in 2011 managed only 15 goals in 18 matches.
Part of the change has been due to a breakout season by sophomore forward Matt LaGrassa, who has four goals after scoring just once in 19 appearances last season, and true freshman forward Ari Lassiter.
Lassiter is the son of former U.S. National Team player Roy Lassiter, who led the MLS with 27 goals in the league’s inaugural season in 1996 and still ranks in the league’s top 10 in career regular-season goals with 88.
Ari Lassiter has some national team experience at the youth level and came in with a sparkling prep and club resume as part of a recruiting class ranked No. 34th in the country by CollegeSoccerNews.com.
“I just came in to try my best,” said Lassiter, who has three goals and three assists playing in all 10 games. “I came in to work hard and show my worth for the team. I never came in to say I want to get this amount of goals or assists and stuff like that. I just wanted to come in and be the best player for the team and work hard.”
Nine different players have already scored for Cal Poly, two shy of the program record. The group of scorers includes senior defender Connor Drechsler, a four-year starter who had not registered a shot on goal in his previous three seasons.
Drechsler has three goals on the season on four shots on goal, including the game-winner against Penn.
With everyone getting into the act, the program record for goals has come within reach. With at least 10 regular-season matches remaining and the chance to play more in the Big West and NCAA tournaments, the Mustangs are 13 goals away from tying the high-water mark set in the program’s inaugural Division I season in 1994.
“The mindset is the biggest thing,” Minter said. “All the way from our keeper up to our center striker, everyone has the forward mentality.
“It’s been through our whole team. So, it’s good to really see it come out in production.”