Cal Poly

Cal Poly men's soccer closes in on UC Santa Barbara after Saturday's win

Cal Poly vs UCSB during Saturday's soccer game.
Photo by Joe Johnston 10-17-15
Cal Poly vs UCSB during Saturday's soccer game. Photo by Joe Johnston 10-17-15 jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Complete euphoria.

That’s how Cal Poly senior men’s soccer player Kip Colvey described the Mustangs’ double-overtime victory against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night. Before a roaring sellout crowd at Alex G. Spanos Stadium — the 13th in the venue’s short history — Cal Poly pulled off a rare upset in the Blue-Green Rivalry.

When Colvey and his three classmates Chase Minter, Matt Lagrassa and Wade Hamilton were freshmen in 2012, the Mustangs swept the season series against the Gauchos. But it had been three long years since they came away with another victory.

At 8-3-3 overall and 3-1-2 in the Big West Conference, Cal Poly has four regular season matches left to catch UC Santa Barbara in the North Division standings. Saturday’s victory moved the Mustangs into a tie for second with UC Davis, and both teams trail the 13th-ranked Gauchos by one point.

Colvey said it was “a big win for us emotionally and psychologically. Hopefully it’s a springboard to keep winning and hopefully win the Big West.”

While Cal Poly’s decorated senior class shoulders much of the workload, it was an unsung junior defender who kept the Mustangs’ championship hopes on track.

With the match tied 2-2 in the 104th minute, Kody Wakasa leaped up from a crowded fray in front of the net and headed in a corner kick past the opposing goalkeeper. As the public address announcer bellowed “Goal!” over the speakers, Wakasa looked to his left, right, and sprinted toward midfield.

“I just remember after I saw my teammates, I’m just looking toward the fans where my parents are because I never score,” Wakasa said.

“That makes up for all of them.”

For most of the 57 career matches he’s played in a Cal Poly uniform, the 6-foot-1, 182-pound Wakasa made his biggest impact on defense. The Hillsborough native once scored eight goals in a single game as a high school sophomore, but he hadn’t found the back of the net in college until Saturday night.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

“First career goal for Kody, against Santa Barbara, at home, in front of 12,000 people,” head coach Steve Sampson said. “It was really incredible.”

Wakasa started in 18 matches as a true freshman in 2012 and was in the starting lineup for 20 matches as a sophomore. Five matches into the 2014 season, however, Wakasa suffered a season-ending injury and was able to use a redshirt to preserve another year of eligibility.

“It was an amazing moment for him and for the team,” Colvey said. “I’m just really happy it came at the right time.”

Beginning Wednesday at home against Sacramento State — which defeated UC Santa Barbara last week — the Mustangs are scheduled to play their final four matches during a 10-day period.

Next Saturday, Cal Poly will be on the other end of a hostile environment at UC Santa Barbara. When the two teams played at Harder Stadium last fall, more than 14,000 fans showed up as part of the second-largest crowd to watch a soccer match in NCAA history.

The Mustangs were in control of that game thanks to two goals from Justin Dhillon, but the Gauchos rallied with two second-half goals and held on for the draw in double overtime.

“Now the key is,” Sampson said, “we play midweek and we have to play well. We cannot let the emotions of this game get to us.”

That’s easy for Sampson to say. He coached the U.S. Men’s National Team, led Santa Clara to an undefeated season and NCAA title in 1989 and guided the Los Angeles Galaxy to the MLS Cup in 2005.

Sampson didn’t mince words when he said Saturday’s match was one of the best college soccer games he’s ever seen. 

From that perspective, Cal Poly’s victory seems to carry even more weight.

“If something like this doesn’t build their confidence,” Sampson said, “Nothing will.”

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