On Wednesday morning, Cal Poly men’s soccer coach Phil Ruskin stood up in front of 350 Week of Welcome leaders with a message.
“We want Cal Poly to be a brand that the students are proud of. It drives me nuts when I see other schools are represented on our campus,” the interim coach said, recapping his pep talk. “My big motivating point was we go to Cal Poly. Let’s be proud of Cal Poly. Let’s support Cal Poly. We’d love to have you come out to the game this Friday night at 8 p.m.”
Women’s head coach Alex Crozier would love to see you at Alex G. Spanos Stadium today at 5 p.m., too. His players planned a fan-finding cruise for farmer’s market in downtown San Luis Obispo on Thursday and have been trying to gain support at recent youth clinics.
With students returning to campus for the fall quarter this week, it could be a big weekend for both Mustangs soccer programs — with each one looking to make an impact on the national stage as well as the local scene.
It starts at 5 with the women’s program taking on Central California rival Fresno State in the first of three remaining nonconference home games before the start of Big West Conference play.
For many new spectators, it will be the first chance to see junior forward Elise Krieghoff and junior goalkeeper Alyssa Giannetti, both of whom figure on finishing as the most prolific players Cal Poly (3-4) has ever had at either position by the end of their careers.
The Mustangs’ lone remaining nonconference road match will come Sunday at No. 4 Stanford, a game that will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks. TheCardinal (6-0-1) is the only program in the country yet to allow a goal this season and feature two players who appeared with the U.S. Under-20 World Cup team this past summer.
“The roster is loaded,” Crozier said, “national-team players, youth national-team players. They’re very good top to bottom, but you’ve still got to go out and play the game. For us, it’s just about committing to the attack, and if we can do that, hold the ball for long stretches of time, then we’ll create some chances for ourselves.”
The Cal Poly men had their Pac-12 Networks showdown last week with UCLA, which entered the match as the top-ranked team in the country but fell to No. 2 after a scoreless draw with the Mustangs.
But that does not mean today’s 8 p.m. match with San Francisco won’t be important. The Dons (4-1-0) boast two victories over top-25 opponents. A win for Cal Poly (4-1-1) could provide a boost in RPI and help the Mustangs break into the national rankings themselves.
Riding a five-match unbeaten streak, Cal Poly is not yet listed in the NCAA’s official NSCAA Top 25 Coaches Poll, but the Mustangs are garnering consideration for the College Soccer News top 30, receiving votes in that poll.
On the strength of three straight shutouts, Mustangs junior goalkeeper Wade Hamilton was named not just the conference defensive player of the week but also a Disney Soccer/ NSCAA National Player of the Week, the first in Cal Poly program history.
The Mustangs are allowing fewer than one goal per game and are scoring at a standout rate as well. Leading the Big West with 13 goals, Cal Poly is averaging 2.2 goals per match. Going into a five-match homestand that starts today against a San Francisco team on a roll, it’s important to keep that momentum going.
By Saturday morning, there could be a rush of new Mustang Manglers — Cal Poly’s official student rooting group.
“From a soccer perspective, it’s a must-win game,” Ruskin said. “From a fan perspective, we want to put on a good showing. For a lot of the freshmen, it’s their first experience at a soccer match.
“We know the atmosphere is going to be fun. We expect a large crowd, but we want to win a game, and we wan tour fans to walk away excited.”