Just three games into Big West Conference play the Cal State Northridge men’s soccer team is already faced with a potential must-win match, Sunday, at Matador Field.
After defeating a lowly UC Riverside team, the Matadors suffered a frustrating overtime loss at Cal State Fullerton and followed it with their worst loss of the season to defending Big West champ UC Irvine. And CSUN’s next match only gets tougher.
UC Santa Barbara, ranked No. 3 in the nation at 9-2-1 and 3-0 in conference has hands down been the Big West’s flag bearer throughout the years. The Gauchos have played in two national championships, winning it all in 2006.
“They set the standard, and they set it really high,” said CSUN Coach Terry Davila. “They show you what (success in a particular) sport can do for a conference. They have the full support of the school financially and physically.”
Going back to 2001, Santa Barbara has won the Big West five times and has not finished lower than second. CSUN has won two in that span, its first title coming under Davila in 2003 and last in 2005.
With seven conference matches remaining, the Matadors (6-5-1) are in danger of falling to 1-3 in the Big West. A loss to the Gauchos would potentially keep CSUN where it resides now – next to last with just three points.
A win versus Santa Barbara would give Northridge a huge confidence boost going into the season’s home stretch and solidify it as a legitimate candidate to reach postseason. But most important, a win would give it three crucial points and potentially put it in a three-way tie for third place.
All season long Davila has said his team’s No. 1 goal is to make the postseason, and to make that happen his squad needs to end up in one of the top four places in conference. Despite being next to last in the Big West, Northridge is within striking distance of multiple teams ahead of it. A single win in conference makes a huge difference when more than four teams are jockeying for position.
The Matadors tied and lost to the Gauchos last season and last defeated them in 2006.
Davila did not come out and say that his team’s confidence level might not be as high after their 3-0 loss at home to Irvine, but did respond to the question by saying, “We need to find out who we are.”
“There’s no tricks in sports,” he said. “You gotta just execute the game plan.”
The Matadors peaked early in the season, winning five straight and shooting all the way to No. 24 in the country, but have tailed off significantly since then. They are currently on a three-game slide and have been outscored by a combined 7-1.
Sunday’s match was originally scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m., but was moved to Sunday because of weather.