Going into today’s opening round of the Big West Conference Women’s Soccer Tournament, Cal Poly has yet to end a single match in a draw.
The Mustangs (10-9-0, 5-3-0 Big West) come into the four-team postseason tournament as the No. 2 seed following Sunday’s 1-0 loss at regular-season champion Cal State Fullerton (8-7-4, 6-0-2 Big West).
Hosting the event at Alex G. Spanos Stadium beginning with the Titans’ opening-round match against CSUN at 5 p.m., Cal Poly is favored to beat third-seeded Long Beach State (8-6-5, 4-2-2 Big West) after the Mustangs topped the 49ers 3-0 in the lone regular-season meeting between the teams.
The 49ers and Mustangs meet at 7:30 tonight.
Cal Poly was also favored to top Cal State Fullerton as the top seed last season, when the Mustangs had a similar aversion to ties.
The Mustangs were 11-7-0 and 7-1-0 in the Big West in 2013, but in the conference, the Titans held strong in a 1-1 draw in the opening round and won the match 4-3 on penalty kicks to advance to the finals against eventual champion CSUN.
Cal Poly, looking for its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance under 23rd-year head coach Alex Crozier, aims to make sure the penalty-kick outcome doesn’t happen again.
“As a soccer player, coach, fan,” Crozier said, “you never want to see it get to that because once you get to that point, it’s just a crap shoot. It doesn’t necessarily mean one team is better than the other. It just means you made a couple more penalty kicks.
“We hope it doesn’t get to that. Our plan is to go out and play well early on and hope we take care of business on the field, but if we do get to that point, we’re ready for that, too.”
On Wednesday, Cal Poly forwards Elise Krieghoff and Megan Abutin were named to the first team all-conference team in a vote of the Big West coaches. Krieghoff was named to the first team for the third straight season.
Krieghoff, who has set Cal Poly’s career goal record, is 20th nationally with 14 goals this season and also has four assists. Abutin is ninth nationally in assists with 12, also tied for the Cal Poly single-season record, and she also has seven goals.
Cal Poly goalie Alyssa Giannetti, defender Robin Mertens and midfielder Lydia Anderson were named to the second team. Defenders Nicole Wheeler and Kendra Bonsall were honorable mention selections, and Emily Hansen and Gianna Rosati were named to the all-freshman team.
Long Beach State had the Goalkeeper of the Year (Ashton McKeown), the Midfielder of the Year (Mimi Rangel), the Defensive Player of the Year (Taylor Nelson) and the Freshman of the Year (Ashley Gonzales).
The two other award winners are both from Cal State Fullerton — Offensive Player of the Year Rebecca Wilson and Coach of the Year Demian Brown.
Cuesta opens it season
The defending Western State Conference-North champion Cougars will open the season with the Rabobank Tournament starting Friday, hosting a field that includes WSC-N rival Allan Hancock and Chaffey, which advanced to the state final four last season.
Only two players return from the Cougars’ title team, but once again Cuesta boasts a roster of decorated international players. Head coach Rusty Blair, in his 23rd season, has also attracted several out-of-state players to add to the mix.
Sophomore center Taylor Thompson of Sonora and sophomore forward Rafael Casanova of Spain played sparingly last season but are competing to start this year. Spanish standout Benat Hevia projects to start at point guard.
Keshawn Liggins, an all-state high school player from Middleton, Idaho, and Kevawn Lord of West Springfield, Mass., provide tremendous depth at small forward, Blair said in a news release. The roster also includes newcomers from Atwater, Oregon, Russia and Cyprus, and expectations remain high for the inexperienced group.
“We can compete,” Blair said. “It will be interesting if we can win league. Even as a new team, we can be the favorites.”
Cuesta opens the season at home in the Rabobank Tournament on Friday at 8 p.m. against Fullerton.
Hancock, which includes former Arroyo Grande High standout Matt Willkomm, will open the season at Cuesta against Chaffey at 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs placed third in the conference last season and return all-conference point guard Andre Miller, who led the WSC-N and ranked eighth in the state with 5.4 assists per game.
Kadeem Minor (7.4 points, 3-1 assists in 2013-14) is a returning starter at the other guard spot. Willkomm, who was a two-sport standout for the Eagles in basketball and football, spent the past year at Northern Arizona, but did not play any sports and returns to the area as a redshirt freshman.