NORTHRIDGE, Calif. –
The Cal State Northridge men's soccer program was picked to defend its Big West Conference South Division title this season in a preseason poll of the league's head coaches, the conference office announced Thursday. In addition, Edwin Rivas, Sagi Lev-Ari and Carlos Benavides were selected to the 2013 Big West Men's Soccer Preseason All-Conference Team.
The Matadors, who finished 15-7-0 overall in 2012, received six first-place votes and 30 points in the poll after a 7-3-0 league season that resulted in a Big West Tournament Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. UC Irvine was picked to finish second in the South Division with 21 points while Cal State Fullerton (16) and UC Riverside (13) were tabbed third and fourth, respectively. The Anteaters and Titans each garnered a first-place vote in the poll.
"Being picked to win the South Division again is a compliment," said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. "We are going to do everything we can to get back into the Big West Tournament first and foremost."
In the North Division, UC Santa Barbara has been predicted to win the crown after picking up five first-place votes and 25 points in the poll. UC Davis, the team Northridge defeated in the Big West Tournament Final a year ago, finished second with three first-place votes and 23 points. Cal Poly came in third with 21 points while Sacramento State was chosen fourth with 11.
The Matadors will need to finish in the top three in the South Division in order to reach the postseason this year, as the Big West Conference Tournament has expanded to a six-team format in 2013. The top three from each division will have a shot at the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. The second and third-place finishers from each division open up the Big West Tournament with a first-round match on Tuesday, Nov. 12, as the North No. 2 will host the South No. 3, and vice versa. Regular season division champions will earn a bye and host a semifinal match on Friday, Nov. 15. The Big West Tournament Final is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 17 at the home site of the highest remaining seed.
"Everybody has improved in the league and it should be a good year," added Davila. "If you played through our league season a couple of times, you'd probably come out with a different winner each time. The league is so competitive and tight and you have to be on your game otherwise you can expect to get a mark in the loss column."
In addition to the Preseason Coaches Poll, the Big West also announced its 2013 Preseason All-Conference Team. Cal State Northridge led the way with three selections to the team, which is comprised of the top 11 vote getters regardless of position.
"Any time you get recognized in the Big West, either preseason, during the year, or postseason, it means you have done something to impress the other coaches so it is an honor for our guys," continued Davila. "The recognition is great but they still have to perform on the field and we are looking forward to them performing on the field for us this year."
Benavides, a senior midfielder for the Matadors, has led the Big West in assists in each of the last two seasons. His 10 assists in 2012 tied for ninth all-time for a single season at CSUN. Benavides was named an Honorable Mention at the end of last season.
Lev-Ari is a junior forward that is coming off of one of the most prolific offensive seasons in the Northridge annals. He scored 15 goals and tallied 30 points en route to being named to the All-Big West Second Team and the NSCAA All-Far West Region Second Team last year. Lev-Ari had three multi-goal matches in 2012, tied for ninth in school history for goals in a single season and ranked sixth in the NCAA in goals at the end of the year. He has also scored a goal in each of his last three matches.
Rivas is another junior forward to watch in the Northridge offense. Last year, he was named to the All-Big West First Team after recording 20 points for the Matadors. He had eight goals and four assists, including a pair of strikes in CSUN's 2-1 division clinching win at UC Riverside last fall. Rivas finished the year third in the Big West in points, points per game and goals scored.
Cal State Northridge takes on Loyola Marymount in an exhibition on the road this Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Matadors will open the season at the newly renovated Matador Soccer Field on August 30 by hosting the 2013 Ryan Rossi Memorial Tournament. CSUN will welcome Albany, Memphis and Cal State Fullerton over the weekend and will face the Great Danes (8/30, approx. 7:30 p.m.) and Tigers (9/1, 5 p.m.) in the tournament.