Women’s soccer pays tribute to veterans on Senior Day

Three Matador seniors, Gabriela Robles, Cindy Arteaga and Taylor Thames, take photos with family, friends and the team on Senior Day on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif.

Mark Armendariz-Gonzales, Reporter

Coming into the final home game of the season, the Matadors women’s soccer team (2-15-1, 0-8-1 Big West Conference) was ready to do everything possible to get the win and break its five-game losing streak. Besides being the final home game of the season, the game Sunday had more weight to it. This was the last time that the seniors on the team would compete on the grass of the Performance Soccer Field. After putting up a fight all game, CSUN conceded a last-minute goal that cost them the match.

Before the whistle even blew, emotions were high on the Performance Soccer Field. Prior to kickoff, three Matadors were honored at the Senior Day ceremony. The seniors recognized were goalkeeper Taylor Thames, defender Gabriela Robles and forward Cindy Arteaga.

“They’ve been wonderful, they have been very supportive of the coaching staff, and they have all been leaders on and off the field,” CSUN head coach Christine Johnson said. “Their presence will be missed, and I am very thankful for all they have done for the program.”

CSUN forward Cassidy Imperial-Pham, center, fights to get the ball against UC San Diego defender Talisa Lin, 14, on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. (Aliyah Hinckley)

All three seniors took to the field, where they were honored by the coaching staff, teammates, fans, family and friends. Each of the seniors was gifted a framed jersey as a parting gift for being part of the CSUN women’s soccer program. It was an emotional moment for all three, as their time as Matadors was coming to an end.

“It was definitely bittersweet and very emotional to play my last home game,” Robles said. “This team has brought so many great friends into my life, and this program has taught me a lot about perseverance and to give everything my best. It has been a great honor to represent my university on and off the field.”

Once the ceremony had concluded, the Matadors focused all their attention on the task at hand, which was to earn their first conference win of the season. The opponent for the afternoon was UC San Diego (3-9-6, 2-3-4 Big West Conference). The Tritons started the game aggressive, generating three corner kicks within the first seven minutes of the match. CSUN started the half slow, but once the attack got going they did not take their foot off the gas. The Matadors took 11 shots in the first half, while the Tritons only had two, with their first not coming until the 30th minute.

One of CSUN’s best opportunities came in the 19th minute when junior defender Kacie Garrity took control of the ball and worked up a shot at goal. The shot wasn’t on target and the ball went just wide of the net. Midfielder Ashley Cruz and Arteaga took shots at the goal during the half, but none were able to give the Matadors the lead. The game remained scoreless at halftime.

CSUN goalkeeper Taylor Thames, 1, jumps up to save the ball from going in the goal against UC San Diego on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. (Aliyah Hinckley)

Coming into the second half, UC San Diego flipped the script and went full offensive. The Tritons had nine corner kicks and 15 shots in the half. Meanwhile, the Matadors attack was a shadow of its first-half self, generating only three corner kicks and four shots.

With the UC San Diego attack consistently applying pressure, the CSUN defense found itself busy. Goalkeeper Thames gave an impressive second-half performance, recording four saves in the half. A standout save was when she beat midfielder Courtney Hilliard in a one-on-one battle in the 73rd minute.

All that offensive pressure from the Tritons came to a head in the 80th minute, when off a corner kick Thames knocked the ball away from the goal, only for UCSD midfielder Camryn Borg to head the ball into the back of the net. The goal gave UC San Diego the lead and the eventual victory, and ended the Matadors’ hopes of winning a home conference game this season.

“They had about 12 corners, and that’s tough for us to defend that constantly. We needed to do a better job in our clearance and make sure we got throw-ins versus corners,” Johnson said.

Since the loss to UC San Diego, the Matadors have played their final game of the season, accomplishing their first Big West Conference victory in an away game against UC Riverside. The women’s soccer team ended the season with a record of (3-15-1, 1-8-1 Big West Conference).