NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Sagi Lev-Ari scored his 13th goal and Carlos Gonzalez added the first of his career to lead the Cal State Northridge Matadors (14-6-0, 7-3-0 Big West) to a 2-0 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs (11-7-1, 6-3-1 Big West) in a Big West Tournament Semifinal on Wednesday night at Matador Soccer Field. Sophomore Carlos Benavides recorded two assists to lift CSUN to its first Big West Tournament Final, set for Saturday, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. at UC Davis.
The two sides played a contentious first half that resulted in a scoreless tie. The Matadors had more opportunities in the first half, however, forcing Cal Poly goalkeeper Wade Hamilton to make six saves in the frame. The Matadors led at the break in shots (10-5), shots on goal (6-2) and corner kicks (4-0).
Beto Velasquez had an opportunity to score the first goal of the night in the 29th minute. He shot a low ball at the goal that was pushed aside at the last second by Hamilton. Yarden Azulay's shot in the 37th minute found a similar result as Hamilton got a fingertip to the ball to keep it from going into the net.
Gonzalez nearly scored for Northridge right before halftime but his header in the 43rd minute was tipped just over the crossbar and out of play.
The Matadors came out of the break even more energized to send attacking runs at the net and Edwin Rivas registered the first three shots of the half within four minutes.
Both Matt LaGrassa and Mackenzie Pridham squandered chances in the second half as their near-identical shots from the right side of the box rolled past CSUN goalkeeper Michael Abalos but missed the left post by inches.
The Matadors finally broke through for a goal in the 60th minute off the foot of Lev-Ari. Lev-Ari, who finished the regular season as the league leader in points (24) and goals (12), added another to his name when he finished off a Rivas cross by volleying the ball past Hamilton. Benavides received credit for an assist on the play for setting up the cross with a through ball on the left side.
The Northridge defense then played the next 24 minutes allowing only two shots, one of which was saved by Abalos. The defense was able to rally on a counter attack to set up Gonzalez for the first goal of his Northridge career.
Benavides dribbled the ball into the right side of the box and passed it to Chris Smith near the touch line in the 85th minute. Smith then chipped the ball toward the center of the six-yard box where Gonzalez finished it off for an insurance goal.
Abalos ended the night with four saves to record his seventh shutout of the season. With the win, Abalos moves into second all-time in Northridge history with 29 wins.
Northridge won a Big West Tournament match for just the first time in school history and now is 1-1-0 in tournament play. The Matadors will take on UC Davis on the road after the Aggies defeated Cal State Fullerton 2-0 earlier Wednesday. The Big West Tournament Final will kickoff just after 1 p.m. and can be seen live on FOX Sports Prime Ticket, FOX San Diego and FOX College Sports.