SAN LUIS OBISPO – Junior forward Matt LaGrassa (right) scored his team-leading fifth goal to provide the Cal Poly men's soccer team an early lead against No. 3 UC Irvine, but the Mustangs – facing the highest ranked opponent to ever visit Alex G. Spanos Stadium – conceded a 76th-minute response and settled for a 1-1 draw on Thursday evening.
Junior goalkeeper Wade Hamilton added eight saves – one shy of his season high – for Cal Poly (5-2-3, 0-0-1), which opened Big West Conference action by forcing UC Irvine junior goalkeeper Michael Breslin into six saves himself. The matchup was Cal Poly's second of the year against a top-five ranked team after drawing then-No. 1 UCLA on Sept. 14, 0-0.
Cal Poly junior midfielder chase Minter enjoyed the first attacking opportunity of Thursday's match, going wide of goal in the second minute. Four minutes later, Mustang sophomore forward John Chronopoulos elicited a save from Breslin. Sophomore winger Justin Dhillon then saw attempt turned away by Breslin in the 15th before senior midfielder Steve Palacios was stopped in the 36th.
Cal Poly finally broke through on 43 minutes as Minter picked out LaGrassa from the right edge of the UC Irvine penalty area. LaGrassa's shot hit the crossbar before slamming down and over the goal line for a 1-0 lead entering the break.
Seven minutes into the second half, the Mustangs enjoyed an opportunity to go up 2-0 as Chronopoulos was hauled down in the right side of the penalty box by an Anteater defender. Chronopoulos, however, placed his penalty attempt near the right post and the shot was smothered by a diving Breslin.
The penalty miss was Cal Poly's first since a 2-1 loss at UC Davis Oct. 22, 2011.
Hamilton chalked up a solitary save in the first half before halting UC Irvine junior midfielder Mats Bjurman in the 63rd. UC Irvine, however, deadlocked the match in the 76th as midfielder Michael Sperber found fellow sophomore Mario Ortiz from the top of penalty area. Ortiz then fired his first goal of 2014 past Hamilton.
Hamilton, however, came up with another save in the 82nd before preserving the tie 13 seconds from the end of regulation by stopping UC Irvine senior forward Lester Hayes III five yards from goal.
Into overtime, Cal Poly's best chances to snatch three points came on attempts in the 91st and 105th from Dhillon, who was thwarted each time by Breslin.
Hamilton, however, was equally impressive, registering three saves alone in the second overtime period.
Dhillon led Cal Poly with five shot attempts.
Cal Poly closes its five-match home stand when facing CSUN on Sunday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. The Matadors (4-5-1, 0-1-0) fell at UC Santa Barbara earlier Thursday, 2-1.