15th-seed Matadors to host NCAA tourney game

Daily Sundial

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The Matador men’s soccer team (14-3-3, 8-1-1 in conference) was awarded a 15-seed and a first-round bye in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, giving the team a much deserved home game to start postseason play.

“We are just so excited to be in the tournament,” said head coach Terry Davila. “Now we must get physically and mentally ready.”

On Monday the soccer team, coaches, administration and staff gathered at the University Student Union Pub Sports Bar and Grill for the ESPNews airing of the NCAA selection show, which revealed the 48-team tournament field. The broadcast team first revealed Maryland (15-4-1) as the No. 1 seed. When CSUN was announced, the roar of excitement at the Pub was deafening.

“It is incredible,” said CSUN President Jolene Koester. “Look at the names of some of these schools CSUN is among. It is a credit to Terry (Davila) and the student athletes.”

Being seeded in the top 16 gives the Matadors a first round bye and a Nov. 22 home game. CSUN will face Saturday’s winner of the San Diego State (9-3-6) and UC Santa Barbara (12-4-3) match. Although CSUN won the last two meetings against the Aztecs, many of the Matador players welcomed the idea of a Gaucho rematch, especially at Matador Soccer Field, where CSUN recently beat UCSB in a 1-0 playoff-implicated thriller.

“I am excited at the opportunity to play UCSB again,” said junior defender Derek Hanks. “We just want to go as far as possible.”

If the Matadors make it past their first opponent, they may find themselves matched up against the tournament’s No. 2 seed New Mexico (15-1-2), which won the 2005 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship. Regardless of the opponent, the CSUN soccer team seems up to the challenge.

“We will be ready if we have to play New Mexico,” said senior midfielder Daniel Paladini, who this week was named Midfielder of the Year in the Big West Conference. Freshman Kevin Guppy was named Goalkeeper of the Year in the Big West, and Davila, who is also the head coach of the women’s soccer team, was named co-Coach of the Year.

As the CSUN soccer team learned the seedings for the tournament, some inconsistencies in the rankings arose. For instance, many of the countrywide polls showed Akron (17-1-2) as the No. 1 team in the nation. However, they were seeded 9th in the tournament. Similarly, CSUN was ranked as high as 11th in national polls, but was selected as the 15th seed.

“There is just more quality teams in the west,” said junior forward Ryan Rossi of this possible discrepancy. “The east is a little weaker.”

Regardless, the Matadors are enthusiastic to be involved in the tournament. For senior Gianni Facio, the experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament is a thrill all its own.

“As a senior, this experience is so great,” Facio said. “But not just for me. This is an incredible event for the juniors, sophomores and freshmen too.”

Davila mentioned his team would probably practice twice a day before the Nov. 22 match, ensuring the team comes out ready to play.

Players and coaches expressed strong interest in building upon existing fan support for the upcoming high-profile tournament game.

“We feel you at our games,” Davila said in reference to the advantage of fanfare at home games.

“Wear red,” Hanks said. “Come support us and we will try our hardest to win.”

Tickets for the Matadors’ Nov. 22 match go on sale today at 10 a.m. at the Associated Students Ticket Office in the USU. Free student tickets will be available to the first 250 students.

Matt Osias can be reached at sports_sundial@csun.edu.