IRVINE, Calif. -
Cameron Iwasa scored a goal in the 66th minute that held up as the game winner as the No. 25 Cal State Northridge Matadors (15-6-1) were defeated 1-0 by the No. 18 UC Irvine Anteaters (14-4-3) in the Big West Tournament Final on Sunday afternoon at Anteater Stadium. The Matadors will now await the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, Nov. 18, to see who they will face in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team.
"UC Irvine is very good, very disciplined, and very skilled on the counterattack," said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. "Whenever you get the chance to play for a championship, it is a highlight. There are six other teams in our league that just don't get to do this, and we are very happy to be in the spot we are in moving forward. UC Irvine is a fine team and they deserve this championship just as much as we did."
The match unfolded slowly in the first half as both teams opted to play a reserved style and size up the other. By the end of the half, however, the Matadors forced UC Irvine goalkeeper Michael Breslin to make four saves to keep the match scoreless.
Chris Smith took the first shot of the match for Northridge, firing from the top of the box in the 27th minute. His shot was caught by Breslin in the center of the frame as it was heading toward the crossbar.
In the 34th minute, Tanner Snedigar's shot was also heading toward the net before Breslin was able to make a save and push the ball wide for a corner kick. On the ensuing series, the Matadors had three corners and shots taken by Trevor Morley, Marino Peixoto and Carlos Gonzalez. Unfortunately, they were all kept out by the Anteaters.
Going into the halftime break, the Matadors owned the shot advantage 6-4 and had four shots on goal to UCI's one.
The second half opened much more quickly and the Matadors had an early chance for a goal but a header by Edwin Rivas clipped the crossbar and went out of play. In the 55th minute, Rivas crossed a ball in for Sagi Lev-Ari but the forward's volley missed just high of the target.
The breakthrough came for the Anteaters in the 66th when Iwasa beat Hobbs into the left side of the goal. Mats Bjurman slid a pass to Enrique Cardens, who found Iwasa on the right side of the box. Iwasa then hit a low shot that hit the left post and went in to give UCI the 1-0 lead.
Snedigar had a chance to tie the match in the 86th minute on a corner kick but his header missed by inches.
With the win, the Anteaters claimed the conference championship and will get the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament while the Matadors will enter as an at-large team.
"Our team put its heart and soul into the match today and I'm proud of the effort and of the group," added Davila. "We need to look forward because we have the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament."
The NCAA Selection Show will be streamed live on NCAA.com at 9 a.m. PT and fans are invited to join the Matadors at The Pub Sports Grill in the University Student Union at CSUN to watch the draw be announced live.