Emotions soared at the George Allen Field when No. 3 seed CSUN failed to achieve victory Thursday afternoon in an upset against No. 2 seed Long Beach State.
The Matadors were defeated, 2-1, in the Big West Tournament semifinal for the second consecutive year. The 49ers received goals from junior midfielder Shauna Gordon and senior forward Nikki Myers.
Gordon struck the net first for the 49ers in the 14th minute of action. After a deflected free kick from senior defender Bo Rael, Gordon picked up the rebound and kicked it home to open the game.
The Matadors had a difficult time offensively, resulting in just three shots for the remainder of the first half — one by senior defender Desiree Cardenas that was wide to the right, and the next two by sophomore midfielder Melissa Fernandez.
Fernandez had a close shot that could have tied the game in the 36th minute, but the ball hit the far post.
The Matadors continued to struggle offensively in the second half but held up a strong defensive front until the 80th minute, when Myers kicked a game-winning cross into the goal off a pass from junior midfielder Marysol Rosas.
Head coach Keith West said he thought the match up was competitive, but anxiety was a factor early in the game.
“Very competitive, the conditions of the weather and the atmosphere were awesome. We were under stressful situations and I thought my team battled,” West said. “With any team you play, your nerves get to you a little bit and I think our nerves got to us, but in the end we settled and we did pretty well.”
Toward the end of the match, CSUN made a huge rally that could have tied the game. Cardenas began things with a goal in the 81st minute that gave the Matadors momentum. After a blocked shot, she got the rebound and knocked the ball into the lower right post, sparking energy among the team.
With the game at 2-1 and less than 10 minutes in regulation, the Matadors had two chances to tie the match but came up short. Senior forward Farryn Townley had an opportunity at the goal in the 85 minute, but her shot ventured high over the net. Then a shot from Cardenas was scooped by 49er goalkeeper Emily Kingsborough.
The 49ers outshot the Matadors 9-7 and had a 6-2 corner kick advantage, with five coming in the first half. Kingsborough had two saves in the 49er victory while CSUN sophomore goalkeeper Cynthia Jacobo collected four saves and finished the season with seven shutouts and 92 saves.
Now that the season is over, five seniors will be leaving the Matadors. Freshman forward Brittanie Sakajian expressed her feelings of regret.
“Our seniors are the best and it is just depressing to have to see them go because they are such fantastic players, I loved playing with them,” Sakajian said.
This year CSUN graduates are midfielder Sonia Espitia, defender Jasmine Pratt, midfielder Erin Kelly, Cardenas and Townley.
A year in review
The Matadors accomplished some incredible feats this season; the team defeated Pepperdine for the first time in nine games and obtained a victory against UC San Diego for the first time in school history. On the road, they took down powerhouses UNLV and Kansas in the Las Vegas Tournament, victories that ultimately helped the Matadors tie their record for most wins in a season with 12 and earn them another shot at the Big West Tournament for the second consecutive year.
Pratt weighed in on the season with her team.
“It’s still stinging, it’s still hurting, it’s still settling in. I am proud of our squad and what we did this year,” Pratt said. “We did a lot of first, we beat many records and at the end of the day, we are a great team. We love each other and we are very proud of each other and what we did this year. I’m going to miss these girls like crazy.”
Although the Matadors’ Big West dreams are finished this season, they have become an annual contender in the conference. The Matadors would not be a team discussed in the Big West a year ago, but now the team is arguably one of the best in the league. Espitia agreed.
“I am so proud of this team,” Espitia said. “That was the one thing we always said throughout the years, this is the best squad we’ve had since I have been here. Just improvement the whole time and I am so proud to play with them.”