In each of the past two seasons, a packed house at Alex G. Spanos Stadium has emptied in an elated rush to the field to punctuate a thrilling Cal Poly men’s soccer victory over rival UC Santa Barbara.
The Mustangs (9-6-0, 2-3-1 Big West Conference) are actually riding a three-match win streak over the No. 21 Gauchos (11-4-0, 6-0-0) after victimizing UC Santa Barbara in a historic 2-1 win at Harder Stadium last year.
Resuming the rivalry Friday night at 7 in San Luis Obispo, the Mustangs will go for four in a row, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in the series since the Gauchos stretched a 12-match win streak over Cal Poly through 2006 — Mustangs head coach Paul Holocher’s first season at the helm.
In the time since, the Big West showdown has become the most well-attended collegiate soccer rivalry in the country, and Holocher has turned Cal Poly into a legitimate threat to the once NCAA College Cup champs.
The Mustangs are 5-4-3 against UC Santa Barbara since the Gauchos swept them in Holocher’s first season and the coach began to woo students to the renovated 11,075-seat Spanos Stadium.
With another sellout on Friday, the series would claim six of the top 32 largest regular-season attendance marks in NCAA men’s soccer history.
Last season’s games, which sold out in San Luis Obispo and drew 13,467 in Santa Barbara, were the two highest-attended matches of the season, including the NCAA Tournament.
“The fan support for this game is unreal,” Holocher said in a news release. “You can hear it buzzing around the campus community many weeks in advance, and we anticipate another great sellout.
“We’re excited for this match because UC Santa Barbara is a quality team with the second-ranked RPI in the nation.”