After last year’s regular season finale, the Cal State Northridge men’s soccer team doesn’t want to experience another punch-in-the-gut, sick feeling.
In 2008, having endured a season in which injuries depleted head coach Terry Davila’s team depth, the Matadors went into their final game against UC Irvine at home with a chance to reach the postseason. A win or a tie would have catapulted them into the Big West Conference’s four-team playoff.
And after 87 minutes of play, the Matadors looked as though a season of grinding it out without several key playmakers was about to pay dividends in the form of a playoff berth.
However, there are 90 minutes in regulation.
Irvine scored a devastating goal in the 88th minute to terminate a season of hard knocks for CSUN. The Anteaters would go on to be the Big West’s regular season and tournament champion.
With today’s season-opener on the road against University of San Diego, the Matadors will look to erase the pain that last season ended with, and make good on their projected finish in the conference’s top four (according to the coaches’ preseason poll).
“If you would have told me with all the injuries we had last year, that on the last game of the year we’re gonna have a chance to win the Big West, I would have taken it,” Davila said.
With 12 seniors returning along with a number of upperclassmen, the Matadors will try to match last season’s quick start of 3-1, but more importantly look to finish better than 4-4-3 in conference.
To do that, the Matadors will have to go through perennial national power UC Santa Barbara and conference champ UC Irvine. A year ago the Matadors were winless against both – tying once and losing once against each. CSUN finished 8-7-4 overall, including a 2-2 tie against powerhouse UCLA.
Depth is not an issue this season — instead it is a luxury. Davila has an arsenal of talented playmakers at forward and midfielder and a team reputation for playing good defense. The most pressing question is who will be named starting goalkeeper.
Redshirt sophomore Brandon Ibarra started the first half of Northridge’s 3-2 exhibition match against UNLV last Friday and did not allow a goal. Freshman Michael Abalos played the entire second half and had two goals find the back of his net.
It appears as though Davila will wait until game time to name his starter.
The Toreros are coming off a 6-10-4 season and finished tied for second place in the West Coast Conference. USD is projected to have a drop of season according to the West Coast Conference placing them fifth in the preseason polls.