Sunday’s regular season finale between the Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara women’s soccer teams will have an important stipulation: The winner takes the regular season Big West Conference title.
Of course, that’s providing there is a winner. Cal Poly (12-5-0, 6-1-0 Big West), which has not tied all season, would take the crown in the event of a stalemate. UC Santa Barbara (8-8-2, 5-1-1) needs the victory.
The Mustangs have won the regular season Big West title six times under head coach Alex Crozier, including three straight from 2002 to 2004. But in those three years, one year there was no Big West Tournament and in the others it was hosted at a predetermined site.
Now the four-team tournament gives home-field advantage to the conference’s regular-season champion, something Crozier and Cal Poly have never had. That’s what the Mustangs and Gauchos, who’ve each already clinched spots in the Big West Tournament, will really be playing for — because any advantage in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth is crucial in a conference not expected to send more than one team.
Of the Big West getting multiple berths, Crozier said: “Well, I obviously think we should, but looking at the math, I just don’t see it happening. We have a very good conference. Every team is very competitive. It’s just a matter of what we’re able to do out of conference.”
Come Monday, it’s possible only three of the nine Big West teams could end the season with an overall winning record.
Though UC Santa Barbara could lose and still finish second, the Gauchos would be one of the teams under .500 if that were to happen.
That possibility certainly doesn’t make this showdown any less significant.
In every one of Crozier’s past three championship seasons, Cal Poly had to beat UC Santa Barbara before getting into the NCAA Tournament.
The teams might not have the same kind of heated rivalry that the men do, but the Mustangs did take out the Gauchos 2-0 in the 2002 season finale, and added two more 2-0 wins in the 2003 and 2004 Big West Tournament championship games.
If it wants another 2-0 shutout, Cal Poly will have to play well on both ends.
“Santa Barbara’s a very athletic team,” Crozier said. “They’ve got some great forwards. Potentially, they can score a lot of goals. It’s just something we’re going to have to deal with and then just try to keep possession of the ball and finish our chances.”
Women third, men last in Big West preseason basketball media polls
Fresh off its appearance in the conference tournament championship game, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team was picked to finish third by the media, and junior forward Kristina Santiago was named to the preseason all-Big West team along with UC Davis guard and former Atascadero High standout Haylee Donaghe.
The Mustangs men, guided by first-year coach Joe Callero, were picked to finish ninth out of nine teams one year after Cal Poly went winless at home in conference play and was the only team left out of the conference tournament.
The Mustangs were denied a spot on the six-man preseason all-conference team. With 17 out of 24 first-place votes, Long Beach State was picked to finish first, and UC Santa Barbara was second with six first-place votes. Defending conference champion Cal State Northridge was tabbed third.
The UC Santa Barbara women were picked to win their third straight and 14th overall Big West title, receiving 10 out of 20 first-place votes. UC Davis, the only other team picked ahead of Cal Poly, got six first-place votes. The Mustangs had three.
Cal Poly looking for two Big West titles in cross country
The Cal Poly men’s cross country team is looking for its seventh straight and 10th overall Big West title at the conference championship hosted by UC Riverside on Saturday, but this time the men aren’t the only ones in the championship hunt.
The Mustangs women, who haven’t won a conference title since taking two of them back-to-back in 2000-01, are the second-highest ranked team in the Big West going into the event.
Led by standout freshman Kayleigh Tyerman, a three-time Big West Athlete of the Week, Cal Poly checks in at No. 10 in the West Region poll, two spots behind No. 8 UC Davis.
Led by seniors Joe Gatel and Evan Anderson, the Mustangs men lead the Big West with a No. 7 West-Region ranking, one spot ahead of UC Santa Barbara.
Oregon freshman Hasay in the running for a Pac-10 title
Former Mission Prep standout Jordan Hasay is already making waves in her first women’s cross country season at Oregon.
One of the storylines going into today’s Pac-10 Cross Country Championships at Sky Links Golf Course in Long Beach is how the freshman from Arroyo Grande will stack up in the 6K race against the group from Washington, the heavy favorite to run away with the team title.
The Huskies women took the top six spots in the same meet a season ago, and return veterans Kendra Schaff, Christine Babcock and Katie Follet from that team.
Hasay does have a time comparable to that trio, the 20:33 she ran in a third-place finish at the prenational meet in Terre Haute, Ind., earlier this month.