Playing its most emotional game to date, the CSUN men’s soccer team gave everything it had to give on Saturday afternoon.
Just a couple of days after attending the funeral services of teammate Jay Singh, who passed away suddenly last Sunday night, the Matadors played the UC Riverside Highlanders to a scoreless tie.
With Singh’s family watching in the stands, CSUN laid everything out on the field against the Highlanders.
“We tried to pull together as a team and just give it everything we had today,” junior defender Bo Miller said. “It was kind of hard since our main focus was on him, but even though we tied, I felt we came together as a team.”
The Matadors were the aggressor throughout the afternoon, out-shooting the Highlanders 14-7, including a 9-2 advantage in the second half. Some of those shots might have found the back of the net if not for a spectacular effort by Riverside goalkeeper Charles Alamo, who denied the Matadors with several eye-popping saves.
Alamo stopped a header by sophomore defender Dylan Riley dead in its tracks, then leaped high to cancel out a dangerous ball that was sent in by senior defender Fergie Aguw that fellow senior midfielder Devin Deldo tracked down and looked to have a good angle on for a potential score. Alamo recorded six saves in the match and Matador goalkeeper Kevin Guppy made five saves in goal.
In an emotional pre-game ceremony, a banner with Singh’s name and jersey number (23) was placed just inside the entrance and fans left flowers, banners and cards in front of the banner. The men’s soccer team then welcomed and escorted Singh’s family to their seats, while those in attendance stood and applauded. Head coach Terry Davila struggled while reading a letter that was provided by Singh’s parents, Jay and Nita, and was addressed in Singh’s name to the crowd.
Each of the players and coaches laid a rose by the banner and the captains of the UC Riverside Highlanders also set a large arrangement of flowers next to the banner. A moment of silence was observed shortly before kickoff.
Miller, who played with Singh at Loyola Marymount University, honored him by wearing his number.
“He was a good guy, always smiling,” Miller said. “He was always laughing and trying to bring people together.”
Singh had transferred to CSUN after playing two years at nearby Loyola Marymount University. He was red shirting the 2007 season and had gone back to his home in San Bruno to visit his parents. He passed away at home on Oct. 7 shortly before 10 p.m. The cause of death is still unknown at this time.
“We don’t know why and we’re still trying to figure out why it happened,” head coach Terry Davila said. “We’ve got to look at our faith, we’ve got to look to our family and hopefully, the answers will come.”
“It was a shock,” Miller said. “We’re going to miss him, and we’re going to live and play for him.”
Davila said Singh was someone that made sure others around him, and not just him, maintained a positive energy.
“Jay made sure that the people around him were happy,” Davila said “He was an angel. He made sure that everyone was happy. He made sure that his friends knew that he cared about them and he made sure he paid attention to everybody, and I’ve got nothing but respect and love for that.”
Even though Singh had been with the Matadors for only two months, sophomore forward Moy Gomez said Singh was able to create a lasting impression in such a short amount of time.
“He affected so many people,” Gomez said. “He affected so many people on this team in a positive way and I know there isn’t one negative thing that can be said about Jay Singh.”
Davila remembers a conversation Singh had with the team prior to the team’s match against the UCLA Bruins at Matador Soccer Field on Sept. 29. The Bruins were ranked 10th in the nation at the time, but the Matadors managed to pull off a 3-0 upset.
“He just looked at me and said ‘you know what, we shouldn’t fear them, they should fear us. We’re going to take it to them’ and he put that smile on his face and it was beautiful,” Davila said.
The Matadors were scheduled to host the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos last Wednesday, but the game was postponed so the team could attend Singh’s funeral service in San Bruno. The Loyola Marymount team also attended the service.
Singh’s family addressed the team in its post-game huddle.
“They thanked us for our support and we thanked them for having us,” Davila said.
The Matadors admit that taking the field under such emotional circumstances was difficult, but they knew the best way to honor him was to play as hard as they could.
“I knew if Jay were here, he would ask us to go out and take the field and play to the very best of our abilities, and that’s exactly what we did,” Gomez said.
“Although we tied the game, I know that I played and I gave everything that I had. And the team dedicates this game to him and we also dedicate the rest of the season to him,” Gomez said
Davila commended his team for playing through under such emotions.
“They showed a lot of maturity and a lot of character,” Davila said. “They were going on a lot of adrenaline because their body and their emotions are shot. They’ve been through a whirlwind.”
Representatives from each of CSUN’s athletic teams were on hand and some teams had all of their players and coaching staff in attendance. Davila thanked them for their support during this difficult time.
“Their true character showed during this time,” Davila said. “From the top of our athletic staff to the student-athletes and the coaches. I can’t thank them enough.”
The Matadors will travel up north to face the UC Davis Aggies on Wednesday at 3 p.m.