The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Freshman Zack Harris’ two goals not enough as Matadors draw UC Santa Barbara

Aliyah Hinckley
Midfielder Robert Kaemmerer, 28, dribbles the ball down the field while playing against the Sacramento State Hornets at the Matador Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. on Oct. 7, 2023.

The Matadors men’s soccer team (4-6-7, 2-3-3 Big West) played No. 2-ranked UC Santa Barbara (9-6-2, 4-2-2 Big West) in a back-and-forth aggressive game on Saturday, Oct. 21, in their home finale which resulted in a 2-2 draw. The team was led by freshman midfielder Zack Harris, who netted two goals to cap off his first points with the Matadors.

Both teams took turns controlling the game offensively during the first half, with CSUN driving the ball through Harris. The Matadors, though, could not keep control of the lead, despite an early eighth-minute header goal in the first half off a touch pass from forward Sebastian Fuentes to Harris for an early 1-0 lead.

Coach Terry Davila was pleased with how his team competed and improved as the game progressed.

“Every time you have an opportunity to win the game, you’re happy for your team,” Davila said. “We played against a very talented team, and we were good tonight, and I’m pleased with how everyone has played this season.”

Twelve minutes after Harris’ goal, Santa Barbara midfielder Lucas Gonzales responded with a wide-open goal on the left wing just past the outstretched arms of CSUN goalkeeper Merrick Cook, sending the Gauchos into halftime deadlocked.

Despite giving up the lead at the end of the game, Davila was proud of the performance of Harris and the team as a whole in the match against a talented team.

“I’m happy for him [Harris]; it was a big night, and he delivered,” Davila said. “I just like that they’re getting better, and I’m very proud of everyone.”

CSUN opened the second half, attacking the Gauchos’ defense and staying aggressive on offense, as they won three corner kicks and attempted six shots on goal. At the 61st-minute mark, Harris dribbled the ball past the midfield by himself and juked three Gaucho defenders to score a high ball goal on the left side of the net, giving the Matadors a 2-1 lead.

“I’m just a freshman,” Harris said. “Getting a few minutes at the beginning of the year and then not starting helped me grind out all season. Those two goals don’t just come from me; they come from the whole team, and today, they happened to fall to me.”

The Gauchos kept pushing for a goal, attempting seven shots and four corner kicks, forcing goalkeeper Merrick Cook to make six saves. Still, despite the enormous saves, the Matadors’ defense couldn’t prevent the visiting team from breaking the clean sheet.

In the 78th minute, while Cook did block an initial shot from Santa Barbara midfielder Eddie Villeda, the ball was deflected up, and forward Alexis Ledoux was there just in time to capitalize on it and headbutt the ball into the goal to tie the game 2-2.

Despite CSUN’s efforts to take control of the game in the second half, their defensive line couldn’t stop the Gaucho’s offense. Santa Barbara led both offensive categories, firing seven shots to CSUN’s six, with six of the Gaucho’s opportunities being on target to CSUN’s three.

Looking forward, Davila hopes the team can redeem themselves against UC Riverside in next week’s game after losing 1-4 to them in the semifinals last year.

“Riverside’s a great team,” Davila said. “We lost to them last year in the semifinals, and hopefully we play better against them this time.”

The Matadors will play Riverside (3-9-4, 3-3-2 Big West) at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, for their final game of the regular season. It is a must-win game to qualify for the playoffs.

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