Nationally-Ranked Matadors Eye Postseason, Face Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine This Week
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. –
The 20th-ranked Cal State Northridge men's soccer team hits the road for two important Big West Conference matches this week. The Matadors, who are ranked in the NSCAA/Continental Tires Poll for the first time since 2009, travel to face Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday and UC Irvine on Saturday.
"Any time you get recognition, it is good for the program," said head coach Terry Davila. "This is a product of having well-rounded student-athletes that are prepared physically and mentally both on the field and in the classroom."
The Matadors, winners of eight of their last nine matches, are currently leading the Big West South Division by nine points with five matches to play. A successful trip to Orange County this week would secure the team's first berth in the Big West Tournament since 2009.
The last time Northridge was ranked in the NSCAA Coaches Poll, the most widely recognized national and regional ranking system for men's and women's soccer in the country, was the week of September 21, 2009. The Matadors were 5-1 at that point in the season and finished the year 10-8-2, losing a close 1-0 match at UC Santa Barbara in the Big West Tournament semifinals.
The Matadors are also currently ranked 14th by Soccer America and 29th by Top Drawer Soccer. The team is receiving votes this week in polls by College Soccer News and Soccer Times.
Cal State Northridge has a chance to clinch the Big West South Division this week against the Titans and Anteaters and secure a home match for the Big West Tournament semifinals for the first time. Two Northridge wins, coupled with a UC Riverside loss this week to UC Irvine or Cal State Fullerton, would hand the Matadors the divisional title.
"We know that we are going to get our opponents' best game because of our ranking," added Davila. "The easy part is getting there; it is much tougher to keep the ranking."
No. 20 Matadors (10-4, 4-1 Big West) at Cal State Fullerton (4-10-1, 0-4-1 Big West)
Wednesday, Oct. 17 - 7 p.m.
Titan Stadium (10,000) - Fullerton, Calif.
Live Stats: Links Available at GoMatadors.com
Audio/Video: BigWest.TV (Free), Link Available at GoMatadors.com
No. 20 Matadors at UC Irvine (4-9-1, 1-4 Big West)
Saturday, Oct. 20 - 7 p.m.
Anteater Stadium (2,500) - Irvine, Calif.
Live Stats: Link Available at GoMatadors.com
A Closer Look at Cal State Fullerton
Northridge will start off the week with the first of two meetings against the Cal State Fullerton Titans. The Titans enter the match with a record of 4-10-1 and a mark of 0-4-1 in the Big West. They are currently fourth in the Big West South Division with one point. The Matadors are familiar with Titan Stadium this season as the team defeated Portland and American in the first two matches of the year at the Wilson Titan Classic.
Jesse Escalante leads the Titans on offense with seven goals and 15 points on the season. He has started 11 of 15 matches this year and also has one assist. Ian Ramos is second in both goals (2) and points (6) and is one of five players on the squad with two assists to his credit. Eight different Titans have scored at least one goal on the season and only two players, defenders Jaime Cano and Bobby Reiss, have started every match.
The Titans have used three different goalkeepers this season but the majority of the time has been split between Adam Zepeda and Robbie Hannon. Zepeda has a better overall record (3-6) but Hannon has seen the most action in conference play, going 0-2-1 with a 1.34 goals against average in four starts. Hannon has started each of the last four matches for Fullerton. Following the match, the Titans will travel to UC Riverside for a Saturday night contest.
A Closer Look at UC Irvine
Following the midweek match at Cal State Fullerton, the Matadors will head to UC Irvine for a Saturday night meeting. The Anteaters are currently 4-9-1 overall and 1-4-0 in the Big West Conference and have a match on Wednesday at UC Riverside before hosting the Matadors this weekend.
Gor Kirakosyan leads the Irvine attack with four goals, four assists and 12 points. He also has taken 30 shots and has 14 shots on goal on the year. Cameron Iwasa is the team leader with five goals scored and is second with 11 points. He too has 14 shots on goal in 49 attempts. Six different Anteaters have scored a goal this season and two others have tallied an assist.
Michael Breslin has seen the bulk of the action in net and is 4-8-1 on the year with two shutouts in 13 matches. He has a 1.56 goals against average and has made 61 saves while allowing 21 goals. After the match with CSUN, UC Irvine will play a non-conference game at Louisville.
Results from Last Week
In their only action last week, the Matadors played one of their more thrilling matches of the season and defeated UC Riverside at home in double overtime. In a match between the top two teams in the Big West Conference South Division, the Matadors and Highlanders played a physical game that was scoreless at halftime and level at 1-1 at the end of regulation.
Chris Smith got the scoring started for Northridge as the midfielder scored off of a set piece in the 48th minute. After playing a short touch to Yuval Barak, Smith got the ball back and curled a shot around a wall of defenders and into the net from about 20 yards out. The goal was the first of the season for Smith. The Highlanders were able to level the match at a goal apiece in the 68th minute on a penalty kick.
Northridge was able to get a golden goal in double overtime off of another set piece, this time cashing in following a corner kick in the 104th minute. Barak took the corner and passed the ball to Carlos Benavides in the box. Benavides then found Rene Anguiano at the top of the area and the senior fired a laser of a shot into the top left corner of the goal to give CSUN its first home overtime win since 2009. For his efforts in the game, Barak was named the Big West Defensive Player of the Week and the College Sports Madness Big West Player of the Week.