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Cal Poly scored four tries to UCSB’s three to down the Gauchos 31-17 Friday night in Santa Barbara, Calif. The rivalry match was tightly contested the entire 80 minutes, with Cal Poly not taking the final two-score lead until the death.

UCSB drew first blood with a try from Alex Asturius, but John Gallo missed the conversion. Missed kicks would come back to haunt UCSB, as two missed conversions and three missed penalties left 13 points off the board. Cal Poly rebutted with a pair of converted tries to take a 14-5 advantage, which flanker Morgan Frothingham would reduce to five with UCSB’s second converted try. The Mustangs rode the four-point advantage into halftime.

Cal Poly outscored the Gauchos 10-7 in the first half of the second stanza, extending its lead to 24-17. UCSB spent many of the match’s waning minutes threatening to score the game-trying try, but opportunistic defense by Cal Poly held strong.

“We had a fair number of penalties. We just didn’t control the breakdwon well, so they did and excellent job of spoiling our ball at the breakdown,” said UCSB coach Kevin Battle, “so it was real frustrating for us. When we kept the ball in tight, they were exceptional there.”

Cal Poly turned UCSB over and cleared the ball across midfield. About 15 meters from their own goal line, the Gauchos lost the ball just out of a scrum, and the Mustangs scooped it up and scored to put the nail in UCSB’s coffin at the death.

The loss was the closest the Gauchos have had this preseason, as they lost lopsidedly to both St. Mary’s and Utah already. However, a close score line has provided little solace.

“It’s always tough to lose. We never set out to not win a match, and of course, while we played better, we still were looking for a different result, so we’re not quite where we want to be,” said Battle, but then again, that’s why we play the preseason, that’s why we’ve selected the schedule we have, and we’ll be better for it.”

UCSB begins its DI-AA season in two weeks against UC Irvine, in the hopes to return to the national championship game.

“Certainly that’s our goal, and we’ve got our work cut out for us, because we lost some special guys last year, and we’ve got some young guys trying to fill those shoes,” said Battle.

“But we certainly think we have a pretty solid group, and they’re working hard and that’s all you could really ask for, and you push to do the best that you can. I think this group will do well as long as we can kind of work through some of these speed bumps, and our challenge is experience, and hopefully with the preseason we set out the guys have got some valuable experience and can grow from that.”