NORTHRIDGE, Calif. –
Looking to build on a successful 2011 campaign, the Cal State Northridge Matadors men's soccer team is predicted to finish third in the Big West Conference this season, the league office announced Thursday. In addition, senior goalkeeper Michael Abalos and sophomore forward Edwin Rivas were named to the inaugural Preseason All-Conference Team in the preseason poll of conference coaches.
"We are excited to get the season underway and hopefully make it back to the postseason," said head coach Terry Davila. "Finishing third overall in the poll is great but we still have to play the best teams in the Big West week after week. There are few places outside of the Big West that can prepare your team for going into Santa Barbara and Cal Poly and succeeding in those atmospheres."
The Matadors, who finished with a record of 8-8-3 and a mark of 4-4-2 in Big West play, are poised to make a run to the Big West Tournament after missing out on a berth by a single point last season. Competing in the newly formed South Division, Northridge will compete with UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside for one of the division's two postseason berths.
The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, second place finishers in 2011, were picked to win the North Division with eight first-place votes and 32 overall points. UC Irvine, the league champion last season, earned 29 points and six first-place votes to finish first in the South Division and second overall.
Northridge came in third with 23 points, earning one first-place vote along the way. The Matadors were selected fifth overall in the 2011 poll with 20 points.
UC Davis was selected second in the North Division with 20 points, followed by Cal Poly (16) and newcomer Sacramento State (12). UC Riverside (15) and Cal State Fullerton (13) rounded out the South Division in the poll.
In addition, 2012 marked the first season that the conference coaches voted for a Preseason All-Conference Team, selecting the league's top 11 players.
Rivas, entering his second season at Cal State Northridge, was voted to the team as one of three forwards honored. Rivas scored five goals for the Matadors in 2011, including the game-winner in Northridge's first ever win at UCLA. Rivas was one of two sophomores recognized on the preseason list.
Abalos, one of two goalkeepers recognized, collected seven shutouts for Northridge last year. He is now third all-time at CSUN with 14 career clean sheets and also ranks among the all-time leaders in goals against average (1.35), victories (16) and matches in goal (52).
"Being recognized by the conference coaches is great for Edwin and Michael," said Davila. "It shows us that we are strong on both sides of the ball with a center forward that can put the ball in the net and a goalkeeper that can keep it out."
The Cal State Northridge Matadors open the 2012 regular season on August 24 with a match against Portland University at the Cal State Fullerton Tournament. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.