Mackenzie Pridham took the ball on the left side, had a one-on-one with the UCLA keeper and caromed a rocket shot off the far post and in.
The clock had yet to hit 1 minute Sunday, and the Cal Poly men’s soccer team was already up on No. 12 UCLA in its attempt to win a program record sixth straight match in front of a raucous 2,895 at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The linesman, however, didn’t see it that way.
The score was negated, and though Pridham had a similar clean shot go wide later in the half, the Mustangs’ chances were continually stymied by offside calls in a 1-0 Bruins victory.
“I thought I was onside for sure,” said Pridham, a junior tied for the team lead with three goals this season, “but the referee felt is was a different situation, so, that’s all that matters.”
Cal Poly (5-3-0) was flagged six times for sneaking past the defense early and failed to cash in on the four legitimate shots on goal it had during the game — the most dramatic of which might have been George Malki’s last-second volley that sailed over the crossbar as time expired.
“Maybe we were offsides on all of them, maybe we weren’t,” Pridham said. “I don’t know if the referee was trying to get himself involved in the game or if all of them were offsides. But the positive is we were getting inside and getting in there.”
Said Cal Poly head coach Paul Holocher: “It’s actually not a bad thing to be offsides. It means your runners are looking to penetrate and get behind. They need to be a little bit smarter with the timing of their runs, but for me it was the final pass, the pass behind and that kind of critical pass that wasn’t there. The quality wasn’t there today.”
Utilizing their newly implemented possession style, the Mustangs controlled the ball for much of the first half, but without putting away a goal, UCLA (5-1-2) was calm and calculated when play resumed.
A Cal Poly turnover led to a corner kick for the Bruins, and midfielder Fernando Monge rose up in traffic to score a header past Mustangs freshman keeper Wade Hamilton only 59 seconds into the half.
It was one of only two shots on goal for UCLA, the other being another header attempt by Monge later in the game, but it was clear by the way the Bruins threatened on the Cal Poly end of the field to start the second half that momentum had shifted.
“They came out with a bit of a different attitude in the second half,” Mustangs defender Nolan Moore said. “I thought we dominated that first half. We just need to do it for 90 minutes and not just that first half. “We need to come out with the same fire minute 1 and minute 46.”
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak that was the longest in the Holocher era and hadn’t been accomplished at Cal Poly since 1994, the first year the program played at the Division I level.
Even though the Mustangs also had a two-game unbeaten streak going against the Bruins, they knew they were going to have a tough time continuing the current string of victories against a team that ranks fifth in NCAA RPI.
That said, there was no moral victory taken from the loss. Holocher, the players — perhaps even everyone from the ticket-takers to the Mustang Manglers — were disappointed to have been denied a program record.
“We’ve gone into every game this season for wins,” Pridham said. “That’s our goal. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish. We think we can play and compete with any team in the country.
“Five games in a row is not something that happens off of luck. That comes off preparation and practice and dedication from the players and coaching staff.”
Play resumes Friday when Cal Poly visits Cal State Fullerton to open Big West Conference play. The Mustangs will also visit No. 19 UC Riverside on the road swing before returning to San Luis Obispo to face Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine.
The loss might have stopped the streak, but players said their confidence remains intact.
“Our momentum is just going to keep going,” Moore said. “We’re playing great right now, great soccer. That first half was some of the best soccer we’ve played all season.
“Ninety four was our first year in Div. I. To make that connection back to that first year was big for us. It would have been nice to make history this year, get six in a row for the first time, but I think that’s really going to give us something.”
WOMEN’S SOCCERFresno State 2, Cal Poly 1
The Mustangs (3-5-1) scored first on a 14th-minute penalty kick by Elise Krieghoff, but Cal Poly finished its nonconference slate with a road loss.
The Bulldogs got the equalizer on a first-half goal from Morgan Castain and scored the game-winner, a goal by leading scorer Callie Hancock, less than a minute into the second half. Cal Poly goalie Alyssa Giannetti made eight saves, and the Mustangs took six shots on goal. The Mustangs open Big West Conference play against Pacific at home Friday.