Nov. 19, 2010
Fielding one of the youngest squads in the nation this past season after 11 seniors graduated in 2009, a figure that includes more than two-thirds of last year's starters, the challenges faced by this year's have not only strengthened the chemistry of the entire team but have provided the newest members of the program the opportunity to learn about the amount of hard work, dedication, and sacrifices that must take place in order to become one of the top programs in the nation.
Unlike last season, only one player will graduate from this year's roster as Chris Leiva will earn his degree in Urban Studies and Planning later this year. A unique opportunity presents itself to the men's soccer program as now all 11 starters have the chance to further develop their skills and utilize their potential as an entire unit throughout the off-season as they reflect and learn from the experiences that took place throughout the 2010 season.
As was the case in previous seasons, head coach Terry Davila and his assistants exhibited no fear with the schedule they assembled this past season. Facing some of the top programs in the nation in Akron, UCLA, San Diego, Loyola Marymount, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Barbara, these match-ups provided an opportunity for all 19 first-year players to truly experience soccer at the Division-I as a student-athlete and experience first-hand the type of success that is expected of them during their time at Northridge.
Willing to share their experiences wisdom during their time at Northridge was a group of veterans who were also unafraid to utilize their leadership skills honed during their time on campus. Having soaked in as much wisdom from the upperclassmen during their initial years in the program, it was now their turn to assist the newest members of the team throughout the everyday challenges that student-athletes of all D-I teams are familiar with when in-season.
Showing the type of effort needed to succeed at the D-I level were juniors Rafael Garcia and Jeremy Hohn. Combined, the efforts of the pair were recognized by other Big West head coaches as Garcia was named to the All-Big West Second Team, with Hohn earning Honorable Mention shortly after the regular season ended.
Finishing with a team-high 10 points and six assists, Garcia's tenacity helped fuel the Matador offense, as the midfielder was often a key component of many Matador scoring opportunities.
Even though his contributions may not be as apparent on the stat sheet, Hohn further strengthened his reputation as one of the toughest defenders to face as he helped the CSUN defense negate the scoring potential of some of the most potent strikers on the west coast.
Known for neutralizing the scoring efforts of his opposition, Hohn became a goal scorer himself with his aggressive play against UCLA, scoring his first career goal in front of a packed crowd at Matador Soccer Field.
Forward Mattias Bonvehi, defender Nicholas Hamilton, and midfielder Daniel Yoon comprised a trio of juniors that Davila could depend on, regardless of the situation as each took their turn assisting the other members of their respective line throughout the 2010 campaign.
Finishing with five points on two goals and one assist, Bonvehi was one of two Matadors who finished with a game-winning goal in 2010 as he delivered the decisive shot that helped the Matadors defeat then-#7 UC Irvine on the Anteaters senior night.
Having played as a midfielder during his first two years in the program, Hamilton unselfishly left his comfort zone to join Hohn on the Matador backline. A decision that would pay immediate and continuous dividends, Hamilton quickly found his niche within the Matador defense by utilizing his size and speed to CSUN's benefit.
As a member of the starting 11, or as one of the first individuals off the bench, as a midfielder or forward, Yoon showcased his adaptability throughout the season. Always ready to compete, the utility player scored his second career goal in CSUN's 2-1 victory at UC Irvine and looks to make an even bigger impact as a senior next season.
Playing with the maturity, patience, aggressiveness, and field savvy of an upperclassman were a group of sophomores who took the experiences gained during their first year on the team as a tool to help their skills evolve in 2010.
Having earned a spot in the Matador record books for his performance in his inaugural season between the pipes, goalkeeper Michael Abalos added another three wins and two shutouts to his total this season. Known for making the most difficult saves look routine, the Matador faithful know first-hand that the newest addition to the storied list of Matador `keepers is talented enough to craft another all-conference worthy effort next season.
With four points on two goals to his credit, Rene Anguiano was one of two Matadors to earn a spot in the starting 11 in all 19 games this season (defender Joe Franco being the other). Along with Garcia, Anguiano helped anchor the CSUN midfield along with teammate Luis Gil who earned his first-ever point as a Matador in CSUN's conference-opening victory at Cal State Fullerton.
Anyone who has watched CSUN live and in-person can tell you first-hand how important Franco is to the success of CSUN's defense. A constant threat on both sides of the ball, Franco could be found routinely neutralizing a dangerous scoring threat on one side of the field, only to join the CSUN attack on the other side of the pitch and create a dangerous opportunity for his team. Watching Franco race around the field can be a tiresome activity for those in the stands, but to watch him play live is the only way to truly respect how Franco does all the little things, without drawing attention to himself or any fanfare, to help place his team in as successful a situation as possible.
Graduating as many players as Northridge did last season presents a unique opportunity for everyone the following season. While the expectations for the returning lettermen increase, the first-year players are often given the chance to prove their potential first-hand, on the pitch, and show the coaching staff that the transition from high school to collegiate competition is a manageable one.
Whether a true freshman, incoming transfer, or freshman redshirt player, coach Davila treated all of his first-year players like everyone else. Some individuals like Chris Smith and Majeed Shahin were able to earn their first collegiate points and become more comfortable with Davila's system.
Others like Taylor Bowlin were faced with the same frustrating situation as their returning peers; as was the case with Jake Troy, the promise of the new season was quickly diminished and replaced with extended periods of time spent on the sidelines due to injuries sustained.
Matador men's soccer fans were able to witness the confidence level rise in a number of new student-athletes as they became more accustomed to pace of the game and physicality that takes place at the D-I level. Players like Brian Behrad, Carlos Benavides, Shawin Berenji, Thomas Ramos, and Tanner Snedigar now have a season's worth of experience to their credit as each were able to earn a spot in the starting lineup at one point or another during the season.
Earning time in goal were newcomers Joe Scachetti and Manabu Kaji, two transfer students who were able to integrate themselves with their new teammates effortlessly and were each called upon on a number of occasions throughout 2010.
But it was Sam Ball, Alberto Rosas, and Gustavo Villalobos who wasted no time in showcasing their skills and talents as each excelled in their respective position in their inaugural season competing for CSUN.
Finishing with a team-high three goals, Ball made a name for himself from the first time he stepped on the pitch at the Cal State Fullerton Tournament. Minutes after making his debut at Titan Stadium, Ball quickly volunteered himself to take a penalty kick, scoring the only CSUN goal of the game against San Jose State. From that point on, Ball possessed a striker's mentality and looked to score nearly every time he touched the ball from that point on. A constant scoring threat every time he took to the field, Ball would be just as willing to defer to his teammates whenever a scoring opportunity arose as he finished with a total of only 15 shots taken.
Earning six points on two goals and two assists, Villalobos and Rosas possess the two attributes coaches spent their entire off-season trying to find - an individual who is not only quick and agile, but knows how to utilize those strengths to create the space needed to either score, or help their teammates score.
Like his teammate Rosas who also scored two goals of his own, each played fearlessly in their first season under Davila's tutelage. Even though neither received All-Big West recognition, both will surly receive their due credit if each continues to turn in the type of season as they did in 2010.
Having played against two teams (Akron, UCLA) that received a seed in the upcoming NCAA College Cup Tournament, and a third team (UC Santa Barbara) that is known nationwide for turning in the type of season that is worthy of a first round bye, the newest additions to the Cal State Northridge men's soccer program are now better prepared to earn similar levels of success.
With a group of veteran student-athletes looking to end their respective collegiate careers in successful fashion, and a core of underclassmen who are more familiar to the challenges of competing at this level, the 2011 season cannot arrive fast enough for a group of individuals who are focused on proving how this past season was just an anomaly in the storied history of the Matador men's soccer program.