Women’s soccer dominates in season finale

University of Hawaii forward Kelci Sumida, 30, goes for the ball as Matadors defender Kacie Garrity, 24, moves to steal it in a game at the Performance Soccer Field on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, in Northridge, Calif.

Mark Armendariz-Gonzales, Reporter

In a season with more lows than highs, CSUN women’s soccer was able to finish off in the best way possible. The Matadors (3-15-1, 1-8-1 Big West Conference) traveled to UC Riverside to faceoff against the Highlanders (2-9-7, 0-7-3 Big West Conference) in their final game of the season, and went out with a bang. CSUN played their best game of the year, racking up plenty of goals in a 4-2 victory, with two of them coming from Matadors’ top goal scorer Cindy Arteaga.

“This performance was what the coaching staff saw early on in the preseason,” CSUN head coach Christine Johnson said. “I think everything came together tonight. Obviously, we worked pretty hard this week to prep, and make sure we end this year on a high note.”

The Matadors wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. In the 6th minute of the match, defender Kacie Garrity assisted Arteaga after intercepting the ball with her head. Arteaga took off with the ball, before sending in a shot to the bottom right corner of the goal, giving CSUN the lead.

Arteaga found the back of the net again in the 50th minute when she blasted a bouncing shot at goal. This gave Arteaga her second goal of the night and her ninth of the season, which is the most goals a Matador has had in a season since Cynthia Sanchez scored 11 goals in 2015.

“Finishing the season on a high note was something we all wanted,” Arteaga said. “I knew this would be my last game with this team, so I wanted to leave it all out on the field.”

In the 68th minute, Arteaga’s CSUN career would come to an end after she received a red card for a foul. It was a bittersweet ending for the season’s top scorer.

Freshmen forwards Alyssa Edwards and Cailey Jackson also had memorable nights, as both scored their first career goals. Edwards made hers in the 14th minute when Garrity once again assisted with a cross. Jackson’s goal came in the 45th minute, when a pass from midfielder Cassidy Imperial-Pham resulted in Jackson nailing the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.

The Matadors ended up conceding two goals late in the second half from forward Alexandra Hargrave and midfielder Spenser Gonzales, but it was too late for the Highlanders. Playing a tight defensive first half and applying pressure on the UC Riverside defense the entire game, the Matadors were able to achieve their first conference win of the season.

Coming off a similarly loss-heavy 2021 season, the Matadors barely improved from their 3-17 record last year. They allowed 47 more shots this season than they did last year, which in conjunction with the three fewer goals scored made it tough to get improved results. When asked for one word she would use to describe this season, Johnson said “growth.”

“This was a growing season for a young team that is still rebuilding,” Johnson said. “The players got experience, and learned that failure is an important lesson in life.”

With the end of another season comes the departure of veteran players. The CSUN women’s soccer team will be saying their goodbyes to three important players this year. This was the final season for Arteaga, defender Gabriela Robles and goalkeeper Taylor Thames. Upon their exit, new players will have to step up to lead the group. Piloting a very young core that has shown promise this season, Johnson and the coaching staff have to figure out who will fill in the gaps.

“I am excited for them to explore their next chapter and leave with a degree,” Johnson said. “They will be missed, but we need to find ways to fill the big holes. Experience takes time.”

Although the season was a disappointment, there were a couple of players who were rewarded with all-conference honors. Goalkeeper Hayden Mauldin earned a spot on the all-freshman team, making 55 saves in 11 games to record the second highest saves per game average in the Big West. Arteaga was placed on the All-Big West Conference first team for her goal-heavy form.

“It is an honor to be part of the All-Big West first team, as the conference is filled with numerous talented players,” Arteaga said.

Now that the season is over, Johnson and her staff will shift their focus to next year. They will continue to develop the culture of the team and scout for new talent.

“For us, we are looking toward the spring because we are going to develop quite a bit,” Johnson said. “I also think that some of the freshmen are starting to understand the system, and just need more time.”

According to Johnson, the goal for next season is to win the conference and the tournament; but in the meantime, they want to focus on the process more than the goals.