CSUN looks to get on track against Titans

Alejandro Arpiza

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From the start of the season, Northridge men’s soccer Coach Terry Davila has said that his team’s No. 1 goal is to get to the postseason.

He cares little about accolades and hype or his team’s national ranking – only a chance, as he says, “To get to the big dance,” the NCAA tournament.

The way to make that happen? Big West Conference play.

The Matadors (6-3-1, Big West 1-0) came within one win or tie on the last game of the 2008 regular season at Matador Field against eventual conference champ UC Irvine from reaching the NCAA tournament. This year, they don’t want to be in that tight, win-or-go home predicament at season’s end. They finished in fifth place last season with a 4-3-3 record in the Big West.

After defeating UC Riverside last Wednesday, 3-1, CSUN has already collected its first conference win and looks to go 2-0 in today’s match at Cal State Fullerton (4-5-1, 0-1) versus the Titans. The Matadors have not lost to the Titans in nine games, boasting a record of 8-0-1 in that span.

CSUN swept the series last year, defeating the Titans 3-2 twice. Fullerton started the season 4-2, but has lost its last three. Both teams hit a snag in the Big West Challenge at Titan Stadium against Denver and Coastal Carolina, with both teams losing a match and tying in the other. The Matadors are 1-2-1 since having their five-game win streak snapped by Denver.

The Titans have finished next to last in conference four out of the last five seasons, but have shown improvement this year, led by junior forward Celso Alvarez’s four goals – tops on the team. Alvarez is backed up by Australia-native Shay Spitz. The senior midfielder has three goals and an assist.

Fullerton was downed in its first conference match by Cal Poly and is coming off a season in which it won just two Big West games, but Davila is not taking any conference match lightly, especially on the road.

“Every team plays a goal better at their place,” Davila said. “That’s a proven fact. If you go into somebody’s environment in the Big West, that’s very hard. Anytime there is three points to get in the Big West it’s a big deal.”

Northridge remained No. 8 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Far West poll despite losing 2-0 at New Mexico (No. 5 Far West) Saturday. Davila’s players echoed the importance of the conference season over the non-conference matches.

“[The game] is almost like six points, because you keep Fullerton from getting a win,” said senior defender Dylan Riley. “If we can knock them out right now, we won’t have to worry about them later down in the season.”

Today’s road game is the last of seven consecutive away games for the Matadors. They are 3-3-1 on the road so far.