Phones flashed, banners waved and tortillas flew as a packed group assembled at the Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Sunday evening for the matchup between the Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara men’s soccer teams.
The game historically brings in the crowds, and this year was no exception: 11,075 people, a sold-out crowd — as well as numerous people watching from behind the fences surrounding the stadium — attended the game, tying it for the 12th largest attendance in NCAA men’s soccer regular season history.
Though it ended in a 2-0 loss for the Mustangs, fans started the night in high spirits. Some began lining up outside as early as 3 p.m. for the game, scheduled to start at 5 p.m. As game time neared, long lines of fans dressed in black with splashes of gold and green stretched around either side of Spanos Stadium, with cheers of “Let’s go Cal Poly” breaking out.
The mood in those lines was very jubilant, said Danielle Bryan, an event staffer working at one of the stadium’s entrances. Some attendees were more memorable than others.
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“We’ve had some people show up pretty drunk,” Bryan said. “We had one girl come in with a giant bag of tortillas — just huge — and I was like, ‘Well, I guess you can go through.’ ” Fans traditionally throw tortillas onto the field during the game, though event staff has a policy to not allow any food or open containers at the game.
Inside the stadium, some showed their Cal Poly spirit with costumes and face or body paint. Fourth-year industrial engineering student Becca Gregg, who sported a green handprint across the left side of her face, said she attended the game mainly “because of the excitement.”
“At Cal Poly, we don’t really have that (excitement) for the football games or other sports, but this is the soccer game where we really get excited about it,” she said.
Throughout the stadium, groups chanted, cheered, sang and waved flags to show their Cal Poly pride, even after UCSB scored two goals.
“I believe that we will win,” chanted a group of about 100 students, waving green and yellow balloons before halftime. Fans also took part in a mass “phone flash,” where thousands of attendees turned on their phones’ flashlights and waved them to distract the opposing team.
Most couldn’t explain why the rivalry between Cal Poly and UCSB is one of the largest in the nation, but they were positive of one thing: It was important to be there to cheer on their team.
“It’s the biggest NCAA soccer rivalry in the country,” said Evan Dowey of Pleasant Hill, as he cheered with friends and fellow Cal Poly students David Otsu of Diamond Bar and Kale McKinney and Blake Whitmee, both of Lake Forest. “We’re rivals, and we’re here to watch (UCSB) lose!”