Women’s Soccer: Matadors face tough schedule as season begins

Casey Delich

CSUN hopes to build off the momentum of last year’s third straight visit to the Big West tournament, where a loss to Long Beach State in the quarterfinals ended its season after compiling a 7-10-2 record including 4-3-1 in conference play.

Matador senior defender Stephanie Norton has helped the back line hold two opponents scoreless so far this season. File photo/ Daily Sundial

With the return of Big West Goalkeeper of the Year Cynthia Jacobo and 2012 All-Big West Preseason Team defender Katie Russ the Matadors hope to advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time.

A projected finish of fourth in the Big West Conference in the coaches’ poll would give them a fourth straight postseason.

Eight starters from last year return to lead the squad with experience of what it takes to field a winner.   Jacobo, head coach Keith West, and senior midfielder Stephanie Galarze agree that this year’s chemistry is just amazing.

“We have been together so long we just have great chemistry and know all of us play as hard as we can,” Galarze said.

With nine freshmen joining the team, they will be expected to produce in order for the team to achieve more than last year.

“We get great recruiting classes with the help of our alumni and the team’s commitment to win,”  West said.

Since arriving in 2003, West has been looking to build a culture for the team, and every year is just a step in the process for him.

The road to the NCAA tournament and Big West playoffs will be harder than any season in recent memory, with opponents in both the top-25 and top-50 in the nation.  A 1-0 win over Arizona State University in its home opener was their first in three attempts against the Pac-12 school. Their season continues with a visit down the coast of California to the University of San Diego, who received votes in the preseason NCAA and are projected to finish third in the West Coast Conference.

Jacobo, looking to etch her name into the CSUN record books, currently has 23 wins and needs seven more to pass Jenny Willemse for first on the career list.  She can also pass Willemse for first on the career shutouts list with 10 on the season.

Jacobo isn’t focusing on the records though.

“Reaching the NCAA tournament and Big West tournament is what’s more important,” Jacobo said.

After winning the 2011 Big West Goalkeeper of the Year award, Jacobo may have a target on her back.

“I feel like now I might, but  I know I have a great defense to protect and help me, they are like my rock,” Jacobo said.

Senior Forward Melissa Fernandez hopes to improve on her 2011 season in which she earned 2nd Team All-Big West Conference with career highs of four goals and 12 points.  She will help lead an offense that hopes to improve, and counter the stringent defense led by senior defender Katie Russ.