The Cal State Northridge men’s soccer team was shut out seven times this season. But Monday the Matadors were dealt their most crushing defeat, this time by the NCAA, as they were left out of the College Cup Tournament.
With a record of 10-8-2, Northridge knew its tournament hopes hung by a thread. It finished fourth in the Big West Conference at 5-4-1 and had significant victories under its belt to go along with an impressive non-conference schedule.
The Matadors defeated No. 10 Santa Barbara at home and split the season series with No. 17 UC Irvine, the Big West Tournament champ. Their noteworthy victories outside of conference play came early in the season – with a home-opener win against Loyola Marymount and road wins against Tulsa and Southern Methodist.
Despite having a top 50 RPI, the selection committee did not look favorably on CSUN’s losses against No. 19 San Diego, New Mexico, Coastal Carolina, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Cal State Fullerton.
Last season the NCAA took the top four Big West teams, but this year, only two were selected. After crushing UCSB 4-1, Saturday, in the conference tournament title game, Irvine was awarded a first-round bye. The Anteaters won the regular-season and conference tournament title last season and will face the winner of the Stanford-St. Mary’s match.
Although they spent much of the year in the top 10 nationally and won the regular-season title, the Gauchos were not awarded a bye, and will face Wofford (S.C.).
Had the Matadors defeated the Gauchos in their first-round match, perhaps the committee would have awarded an at-large berth. Instead, CSUN coach Terry Davila and his squad are left to wonder what if, as they have now missed the big tournament for the fourth straight year.
Northridge peaked early in the season, shooting up to No. 24 in the nation and fourth in Far-West rankings after winning five straight games. But the team hit a turning point in the Big West Challenge, losing to Coastal Carolina and playing Denver to a 0-0 tie. From there, the Matadors won two out of eight matches, and at one point were near the bottom of the Big West standings.
CSUN did finish strong, though, winning its last three matches to clinch the final spot in the Big West Tournament.
Davila’s program will take a significant hit in graduation this year, with 10 seniors leaving, which will create a number of open positions to be filled.