The CSUN women’s soccer team is off to the best start in school’s history, coming out on top of all of this season’s three games.
‘We’re a little more balanced this year,’ said head coach Keith West. ‘We’re more mature and we have better chemistry.’
The Matadors will be looking for their fourth win tomorrow, but it may be their toughest task yet.
Visiting Matador Soccer Field will be the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). The Rebels (3-0-1) are on a three-game winning streak of their own and coming off a weekend in which they outscored their opponents 6-1. They are also the current Mountain West Conference (MWC) champions and have won two regular season championships and two tournament championships in the last four years.
UNLV is anchored on defense by junior goalkeeper Alicia Lugo, who was named MWC Women’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday. In 2007, Lugo made 101 saves and allowed just 15 goals while posting 10 solo-shutouts, a school record. This season, she’s been just as stingy in the net, making 13 saves and allowing just one goal through the first four games. She has also gone 299 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal.
‘We have to play our game on offense,’ said West. ‘We need to stick to our game plan and we should be fine.’
The Matadors’ offense has been their biggest weapon, but the defense has been solid as well. Northridge has only allowed three goals through three games, including a shutout on the road against UC Bakersfield on Sunday. In that game, CSUN goalkeeper Leah Elliot didn’t even need to make any saves as the defenders in front of her kept the ball away from the net.
‘Our defense has been pretty good this season,’ said West. ‘We can always improve though, so we have been working hard at getting better.’
The Rebels are led on offense by sophomore forward Ashleigh Shoughro. In four games this season, she leads UNLV with three goals and 12 shots. In 2007, she played for the University of San Diego, scored five goals and was named to the All-West Coast Conference Freshman Team.
As for CSUN, seniors Tinamarie Lutizetti and Kristal Phillips are the offensive leaders. Each has scored two goals and been credited with an assist this season. Last week, Lutizetti was nominated for Big West Conference Player of the Week.
‘I’m just trying to make a difference this year,’ said Lutizetti. ‘My main objective is to help the team get wins. It’s been pretty exciting so far. I feel like my hard work is finally paying off.’
While the upperclassmen are scoring the goals, it’s the freshmen that have been setting them up. Freshmen Nancy Aveysan and Brielle Slepicoff lead the Big West Conference in assists with three each.
‘The transition has been difficult,’ Slepicoff said, talking about going from high school to college. ‘It’s more of a challenge and it’s a lot more intense. I’m just trying to help as much as I can.’
The Rebels are led by fourth-year head coach Katherine Mertz. UNLV has yet to finish a season without a championship since Mertz has been at the helm.
The Matadors are hoping to avoid being the third Big West team this season to fall to the Rebels. UNLV defeated UC Irvine 2-0 on August 24, and Pacific 1-0 last Saturday.
‘They’re probably the toughest team we’ll face so far this season,’ said Slepicoff. ‘We’re doing good. We’re coming together. If we continue that, then we should be alright on Friday.’
Friday’s game is set to kick off at 4:30 p.m.