CSUN men’s soccer racking up wins to start the season

The Matadors huddle before the game against Utah Valley in Northridge, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022.

Justin Parrott, Reporter

CSUN men’s soccer has kicked off the 2022 season hot, sitting on a 3-1-1 record as they put themselves on pace to bounce back from their slump in 2021.

In his 24th season as the CSUN men’s soccer coach, Terry Davila led his team to a 4-13-1 record last season, with a 3-5-1 finish in the Big West Conference, good enough for eighth place. The Matadors have not made the Big West tournament since 2019 and look to rebound after the difficult season.

“Last year was tough, coming back from COVID-19. At one point we had 12 players missing, mostly half our team, but the team performed at their best,” said Davila. “This year we are trying to build on the attitude we had last year, compete and win the next game.”

The Matadors lost six players from the 2021 season, including Giovanni Aguilar, who was named to the Big West All-Conference first team. Tied for the team lead in goals with three and ranked 15th in the Big West in assists, Aguilar left big shoes to fill, but Davila believes they have talented guys on the roster.

“You can never replace Giovanni Aguilar. He’s a one time talent,” Davila said. “This year, we plan to fill his absence by playing by committee. We feel like we have a lot of players that can play that position.”

This season, the team has 13 players coming back, including sophomore Jamar Ricketts, who made the 2021 Big West All-Freshman team while scoring three goals. Davila believes Ricketts will take the next step this season.

“The goal I have for him this year is to continue to get better. He works really hard in practice and it shows in the game,” Davila said. “He has been improving on the details and I always try to give him tips to get better.”

To start the season, Ricketts has continued where he left off last year, scoring two goals and passing for one assist thus far.

Nineteen newcomers have joined the 2022 program, including eight freshmen and two transfers who give the Matadors extra experience on the playing field.

Graduate student Michael Mullins, who transferred from St. Joseph’s University, played 37 matches in three seasons at St. Joseph’s and will provide a lot of experience on the backline for the Matadors. Jack Rhead, a redshirt junior from Quincy University, earned third team Great Lakes Valley All-Conference recognition, leading Quincy with a total of eight goals last year.

“Having both Rhead and Mullins here, they bring great soccer knowledge and know the game very well,” Davila said. “They really know their positions well and they make the team that much better because they understand where they need to be on the field.”

Rhead has scored one goal and earned two assists so far, using his playmaking ability to propel CSUN to three wins and a draw.

But the Matadors were not always at the top of the conference.

Multiple Matadors go after the ball in the air as they look to gain control against Utah Valley in Northridge, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Aliyah Hinckley)

From 2017-2019, the Matadors barely held down winning seasons. In 2017, the team went 10-9-2 and 4-4-2 in Big West Conference play, losing in the tournament semifinals to UC Davis. They won 52% of their games, highlighted with a win over ninth-ranked University of Denver, 2-0.

In 2018, they finished 9-8-1 and 3-3-1 in conference play. Sticking around .500, the Matadors beat many ranked teams, including 11th-ranked UCLA. These wins gave them the opportunity to play in the tournament for a second straight year, but they again lost to UC Davis, this time in the first round.

In 2019, the team took a slight dip in wins, but continued to have big games, beating seventh-ranked University of Washington 3-1. For the fourth straight year, they made it back in the tournament, knocking out UC Irvine 3-2 before falling to 15th-ranked UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals.

With COVID-19 canceling sports in 2020, the next time the team played was in 2021. Managing a 4-13-1 overall record and a 3-5-1 record in conference play, the team’s standing dropped as they won only 25% of their games. The Matadors lost their first seven matches and could not recover.

Having missed out on the tournament for the first time since 2014, the Matadors face the tall task of returning to the top of the division. But the Matadors are poised to have a good season if they continue to play at the high level they have so far.

CSUN’s season continues Sept. 16 at 5 p.m. at Missouri State University.