NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The No. 25 Cal State Northridge Matadors (15-6) return home to open up NCAA Tournament play after winning the 2012 Big West Conference Tournament last week. The Matadors shutout the Cal Poly Mustangs in the semifinal round before winning the final match 1-0 at UC Davis on November 10. CSUN's first opponent in the NCAA Tournament will be the University of San Diego. The Toreros (11-8) were winners of the West Coast Conference and earned an automatic bid to the postseason. The Matadors and Toreros will play on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Matador Soccer Field. The winner of Thursday's match will travel to UCLA to face the Bruins on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. The last time the Matadors appeared in the NCAA Tournament was in 2005 when the team defeated UC Santa Barbara in the second round in Northridge before falling 1-0 in overtime at New Mexico. CSUN is 1-3-1 all-time in the national tournament.
Tickets for Thursday's match are $10 for general admission and $7 for CSUN and USD students with I.D. The match will feature a live audio broadcast on GoMatadors.com. Fans can also access live stats coverage of the match by visiting the men's soccer schedule page on GoMatadors.com.
Match #22 - NCAA Tournament First Round:
No. 25 Matadors (15-6) vs. San Diego Toreros (11-8)
Thursday, Nov. 15 - 7 p.m.
Matadors Soccer Field (1,900) - Northridge, Calif.
Live Stats: Link Available at GoMatadors.com
Internet-Only Audio: Mike Martinez, Play-By-Play
Follow Your Matadors Online
All home matches this season will include live stats coverage and selected matches will also feature a free audio broadcast on GoMatadors.com. For road contests, related links to the game, including for any live stats, audio and video, will be posted before the match on the schedule page of GoMatadors.com. Fans are also encouraged to check the Cal State Northridge Athletics Department's official Twitter feed (@GoMatadors) for updates of matches in progress and news and notes throughout the week.
A Closer Look at San Diego
The San Diego Toreros enter the postseason with a record of 11-8. The Toreros captured the West Coast Conference title after posting a mark of 9-3 in conference play. Northridge and San Diego have not met at Matador Soccer Field since 2010, when the Toreros came away with a 2-0 victory. Earlier this season, Northridge earned a 5-0 victory over San Diego at Torero Stadium. Since that match, USD has gone 9-4. Six of the wins have come by one-goal margins. The Matadors have gone 10-3 in that same stretch.
Dan Delgado leads the San Diego attack and is first on the team with eight goals, five assists and 21 points. Patrick Wallen has six goals, two assists and 14 points and also leads the way with 54 shots taken and 26 shots on goal. Sergio Lopez and Elijah Galbraith-Knapp each have three goals on the year. Overall, 11 different players have scored goals for the Toreros and a total of eight players have recorded assists.
Drew Ilijevski will likely get the start at goalkeeper for San Diego this week. Ilijevski has appeared in 13 matches this season and has a record of 9-3-0 with four shutouts. He has allowed 14 goals so far and has a goals against average of 1.21 with 37 saves. The Toreros have only allowed one goal in their last five victories but have conceded five goals between their last two losses. Ilijevski was recently named to the Capital One Academic All-District and West Coast Conference All-Academic Teams.
San Diego has lost two of its last three matches and is 4-4 in away games this season. The winner of Thursday's match will travel to nearby UCLA, which earned a seed and a bye to the second round.
Recap of the Big West Tournament Final
The Cal State Northridge Matadors defeated the UC Davis Aggies on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Aggie Soccer Field to win the Big West Championship and earn thier first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2005. Previously, Northridge had never appeared in the Big West Tournament Final. In addition beating Cal Poly 2-0 in the semifinal round, the Matadors are now 2-1-0 all-time in conference tournament play. Forward Sagi Lev-Ari scored both game-winning goals on the week to lead the Matadors to the Big West title.
On Saturday afternoon at UC Davis, Lev-Ari scored the only goal of the match. In the 16th minute of play, Chris Smith sent a long ball up the field that was chested down by Lev-Ari at the top of the box. The forward then created space between himself and the
defender and fired a left-footed shot that went above the diving Aggie goalkeeper and hit the underside of the crossbar before going into the goal. It was his conference-leading 14th goal of the season.
Big West Goalkeeper of the Year Michael Abalos recorded five saves in net, including an impressive sequence of saves on consecutive shots within seconds in the first half to record his eighth shutout of the season and set a new career high. For his work in the conference tournament, Lev-Ari was named the week's Most Valuable Player.
Gearing Up for the Postseason
With a 1-0 win at UC Davis on November 10, the Matadors won their first Big West Conference Tournament Championship and earned a spot into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. After defeating Cal Poly 2-0 in the Big West Semifinal round on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Matadors headed north and won a tense battle against the Aggies. The first round of the NCAA Tournament begins at Cal State Northridge on Thursday, November 15 at 7 p.m. Full postseason coverage, including links for any NCAA Tournament broadcasts, will be posted when they become available at GoMatadors.com.
Rewriting the Record Books
One indication of the success goalkeeper Michael Abalos has earned so far in his career can be seen in the Matador record books. The San Juan Capistrano, Calif. native earned a spot on four different lists with his numbers earned during his career at Northridge. Abalos is now in sole possession of second with his 30 career victories, is sixth all-time with his 1.23 career goals against average and is second all-time with his 22 career shutouts. His eight clean sheets earned in 2012 are also the second-highest number of shutouts earned in a season, tying him with Kevin Guppy (2007). His 72 matches in goal are second on the all-time list. This season, Abalos has a 14-6 record with eight shutouts and a 0.89 goals against average.
Redshirt sophomore Edwin Rivas is picking up right where he left off at the end of last season. Heading into the NCAA Tournament, Rivas has eight goals, four assists and 20 points. Rivas scored a goal and had an assist in Northridge's 4-0 win over Portland and scored the tying goal against American University in a 2-1 win. For his work over the first weekend, he was named the 2012 Wilson Titan Classic Offensive MVP and earned Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors as well. He scored the game-winning goal over Temple in a 2-1 win on September 16 and added an insurance goal against UC Davis on September 28 in a 2-0 win. He netted a pair of goals to lead CSUN to a 2-1 win and helped clinch the Big West South Division at UC Riverside on October 27. For his career, Rivas now has 13 goals, four assists and 30 points.
Everybody Needs a Little Lev-Ari
Sophomore forward Sagi Lev-Ari made a statement in his first match in a Northridge uniform. In the Matadors' 4-0 victory over the Portland Pilots on August 24, Lev-Ari scored the first and last goals of the match to secure his first four points of the season. He became the first Matador with a multiple-goal match since Rafael Garcia put in two penalty kicks at UC Davis on September 28, 2011. On September 2 at Loyola University Maryland, Lev-Ari scored his third goal of the campaign off of a free kick. Jose Luis Garcia touched a short ball to Lev-Ari who fired in a lined shot from about 22 yards out. Lev-Ari also scored two goals in wins over Army and San Diego and scored 21 seconds in to help CSUN defeat Cal Poly on the road on October 5. He followed that up with the game winner in CSUN's 2-0 win over Cal Poly in the Big West Tournament Semifinal and the 1-0 win in the tournament final at UC Davis. For his work, he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and earned a spot on multiple National Teams of the Week. Lev-Ari currently leads the Big West and is 8th in the country with 14 goals scored. He also leads the conference with seven game-winning goals.
Junior midfielder Carlos Benavides continues to help the Matadors find ways to score goals. After tying for the Big West Conference lead with eight assists and leading in assists per game (0.47), he took home the top spot in those categories again this season. At the Wilson Titan Classic Benavides picked up two assists, one in each of the Matadors' victories over Portland (4-0) and American (2-1). He also notched a pair of assists in CSUN's 5-0 win over Army (9/14) and had two in the Big West Semifinal win over Cal Poly (11/7). Benavides currently leads the Big West with 10 assists and 0.48 assists per game.
Junior midfielder Beto Velasquez is a main cog of the Northridge offense and is third on the team with eight goals and 17 points. After transferring to CSUN from Virginia Tech, the Panorama City, Calif., native has helped Northridge to key victories in the team's quest to get back to the postseason. He scored the game-winning goal against American (8/26) as Northridge won the Wilson Titan Classic and also had the lone goal in CSUN's win at then-No. 4 UC Santa Barbara (10/7). Velasquez scored the only goal of the match in CSUN's home contest against Cal State Fullerton, curling in a free kick in the first half to score the eventual game winner.
One Plus One is Three or Four
Sophomore forward Edwin Rivas was the first Matador to put up a goal and an assist in the same match this season when he accomplished the feat against Portland on August 24. Sophomore forward Sagi Lev-Ari had two goals of his own in that match to record four points as each put up performances that are hard to come by. Lev-Ari followed up his display with another two-goal outing in a 5-0 win over Army (9/14) in Northridge's home opener and a pair of goals at San Diego (9/20). The forward scored the eventual game-winning goal in the sixth minute and added another in the 55th against Army and scored twice in the opening 10:27 against the Toreros to lead the Matadors to their largest margins of victory since a 6-1 win over Detroit on Aug. 31, 2007. Rivas added another multi-point performance, scoring twice in a match for the first time in his career in a 2-1 win at UC Riverside (10/27).
Matadors in the Big West Top Ten
In the final conference rankings before the NCAA Tournament, a number of Matadors found their way into the individual Top 10 lists for the Big West Conference. Edwin Rivas leads the conference in shots taken (77). He ranks among the leaders in points (3rd - 20), points per game (T-3rd - 1.00), goals (T-3rd - 8) and goals per game (T-5th - 0.40). He also leads the league with 3.85 shots per game. Sagi Lev-Ari ranks first with 1.33 points per game and is third in the Big West with 60 shots taken. Lev-Ari is the league leader in points (28), goals (14) and goals per game (0.67). Beto Velasquez checks in at seventh with 17 points and is tied for third with eight goals. Carlos Benavides leads the Big West with 10 assists and 0.48 assists per game while Chris Smith is tied for third with three assists, David Turcios is tied for sixth with six and Yuval Barak is tied for ninth with five. Goalkeeper Michael Abalos ranks first in the conference in goals against average (0.89), is fourth in save percentage (.775) and is seventh in saves per game (3.10). He leads the league with 0.40 shutouts per game and eight shutouts. His 62 saves are fifth among all Big West goalkeepers. Stats are current as of November 12.
The Cal State Northridge Matadors have seen production out of every position on the field this season. In the team's matches to this point, 11 different players have scored a goal and 16 total Matadors have recorded at least one point. The team has put up 124 points thus far to lead the Big West Conference. Each of the four goals against the Portland Pilots in the season-opening 4-0 win had an assist by a different player. Among the point scorers for Northridge are six forwards, five midfielders and five defenders led by forward Sagi Lev-Ari with 28. Edwin Rivas (20), Beto Velasquez (17), Jose Luis Garcia (4), Brian Behrad (7), Joe Franco (3), David Turcios (8), Chris Smith (9), Carlos Gonzalez (3), Rene Anguiano (4), and Armando Gutierrez (2) have scored goals while Carlos Benavides (10), Yuval Barak (5), Christian Gonzalez Diaz (2), Trevor Morley (1) and Yarden Azulay (1) have earned assists. Lev-Ari has scored a goal in 11 matches this year and leads the team with 14 goals.
The Matadors are back in the national rankings for the first time since the 2009 season. After recording a pair of shutouts to win the Big West Tournament Championship last week, Northridge is currently ranked 27th by College Soccer News and 32nd by Top Drawer Soccer. The Matadors are receiving votes in polls by Soccer Times and are ranked 25th by the NSCAA, the official poll recognized by the NCAA. In the NSCAA's regional rankings, the Matadors are currently fourth in the Far West, the highest of any Big West team this week. CSUN is ranked 29th in the RPI.
You Can't Score if You Don't Shoot
With the NCAA Tournament getting underway this week, the Matadors lead the Big West in shots taken (336) and goals scored (40). CSUN is also the leader in points (124) and is second in goals per game (1.90). Over Northridge's two matches against Army and Temple, the team took a combined 49 shots and scored seven goals. Their opposition took just 15 shots and scored once. The next match, Northridge erupted for five more goals at San Diego (9/20). Every Matador that has played in the field this season has recorded a shot and just under 40 percent of the shots taken have been on goal. At the same time, opponents have recorded 242 total shots and 82 shots on goal, scoring 18 times.
Getting the Job Done
Heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Matadors are looking to build on exciting finishes they have put up thus far. Following a 4-0 result against Portland, Northridge found itself down a goal early in the second half against American. It was then that the Matadors rattled off two goals in a span of three minutes to take the lead for good and pick up their second win of the year. Northridge has also been impressive offensively in a pair of 5-0 victories at home against Army (9/14) and at San Diego (9/20). Prior to this season, the Matadors hadn't scored five goals in a match and hadn't won by a five-goal margin since winning 6-1 over Detroit in the team's home opener on August 31, 2007. On October 7, the Matadors went in to Santa Barbara and came away with a 1-0 win over then-No. 4 UC Santa Barbara. It was the first win for CSUN at Harder Stadium since the 1999 season. On October 13, Northridge was able to score a golden goal in the 104th minute against UC Riverside to record the program's first home overtime win since 2009. The team then defeated Cal Poly 2-0 in the Big West Semifinals and outlasted UC Davis 1-0 in the Final to capture the program's first Big West Tournament Championship.
Redefining The "Matador Defense"
The Matadors are changing what it means to be guilty of playing a "Matador Defense." So far this season, Northridge has recorded 10 shutouts after earning a total of eight in 2011. The Matadors have won eight of their last 10 matches, five of which have been shutouts. The Northridge defense has allowed just 18 goals this season and ranks 30th in the nation with a combined 0.85 goals against average.
For the NCAA Tournament First Round at Matador Soccer Field this Thursday, ticket prices have been updated. As the match is part of the postseason and governed by the NCAA, all fans in attendance will need a ticket for admission, including students. For the match, general admission tickets will be $10 while all tickets for CSUN and USD students are $7.