CSUN women’s soccer falls to rival CSU Fullerton

The Matadors women’s soccer team huddles up before the game against the CSU Fullerton Titans on Sept. 22, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif.

Mark Armendariz-Gonzales, Reporter

For CSUN women’s soccer, no rivalry in the Big West Conference has more history than the one with CSU Fullerton. So far, CSUN has been on the unlucky side of the coin. Of the last nine games against the Titans, the Matadors have only managed to win two and tie once.

The most heartbreaking defeats came in Big West Conference championships in 2017 and 2019, with the former being decided by a penalty shootout. These losses prevented the women’s soccer team from picking up its second-ever Big West tournament win, after the Matadors defeated these same Titans in the championship game in 2012. The Matadors have not been able to beat Fullerton since their 2-1 win at home in 2018.

Going into Thursday night, the Matadors (2-9, 0-2 Big West) were full of confidence after their first home win of the season against Portland State University. The team started clicking both offensively and defensively, ready to take the next step and achieve its first conference win of the season.

CSUN defender Gabriela Robles, 19, goes after the ball and tries to steal it from the Titans’ Emelia Owen, 18, on Sept. 22, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. (Aliyah Hinckley)

The same could not be said for the Titans (4-3-3, 1-0), who were coming off back-to-back losses and had not won a game since Sept. 4. Nevertheless, both teams showed up Thursday with something to prove. It was Fullerton who ultimately won the match, beating CSUN 2-1 in a hard-fought battle.

“We’re disappointed,” said CSUN head coach Christine Johnson. “We felt we outplayed [and] outshot them. We had some pretty good opportunities, and just did not finish.”

The Cal State Fullerton attack came out of the gates applying much pressure, earning three corner kicks within the first three minutes of the game. The Titans ended with 12 corners and nine shots on goal in the game. Although the Matadors defense had its hands full with the Titans attack in the first half, they did not back down and stood their ground.

“Our back line is doing well,” Johnson said. “They were under pressure and I thought they handled it pretty well.”

Freshman goalkeeper Hayden Mauldin had an impressive night as well. The keeper out of Bakersfield came up with many clutch plays in the game, both by knocking the ball over the crossbar and making some diving stops. Mauldin had a total of seven saves in the game.

Even though it was the Titans attack that applied the most pressure during the first half, it was the Matadors who cracked the scoreboard first. In the 12th minute, graduate student midfielder Ashley Cruz gained control of the ball and made a run deep down field before passing it to junior forward Cindy Arteaga, who waited close to the penalty area. Arteaga raced past the defenders and linked back up with Cruz, passing the ball back to the midfielder. Cruz squared off with Titan goalkeeper Mia Ranson on a one-on-one and shot the ball into the back of the net, putting the Matadors up 1-0 with her second goal of the season.

“I was very excited,” Cruz said. “I kind of expected it for myself. I had a talk with the coaches and they were just giving me the green light to flip that switch on, and reach that potential that they know I can reach.”

The Matadors had an opportunity to double their lead in the 17th minute when Arteaga popped a ball toward the top of the goal. The Fullerton keeper was quick to react and managed to get her hands on the ball before it went in.

Forward Cassidy Imperial-Pham, 18, dribbles the ball on an attack against the CSU Fullerton Titans on Sept. 22, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. (Aliyah Hinckley)

But CSUN’s lead did not last long. In the 18th minute, forward Hailey Gough beat the Matadors defense and sent a cross to forward Kaytlin Brinkman. Brinkman controlled the ball and buried it into the back of the net, tying the game at one. The match remained a tie until the end of the first half.

Both teams went on the offensive in the second half, each taking multiple shots at goal. Fullerton barely outshot CSUN during the half with 11 shots to the Matadors 10. With constant pressure from both sides, it was the Titans who broke the draw.

In the 73rd minute, Kaylin Raibon rifled a shot on goal. Mauldin put a hand on the ball, but the power of the shot proved to be too much and the ball went in. The goal gave Fullerton a 2-1 lead and helped them achieve their first Big West victory of the season.

“We need to push through the full 90 minutes,” Cruz said. “Once we get tired, that is when the mistakes come.”

The Matadors season continues Thursday at 7 p.m., when they host UC Santa Barbara in hopes of picking up their first Big West win of the season.