Women’s Soccer Notebook: First ever Big West championship capped off by NCAA berth

Casey Delich

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The most successful season in women’s soccer history at CSUN ended in heartbreak for the Matadors in the first round of the NCAA playoffs, after capturing their first Big West Tournament Championship.

Fielding a lineup of nine graduating seniors, the Matadors brought a seasoned roster that had steadily improved every year, reaching the Big West Tournament each of the past three seasons.

“We have been together so long we just have great chemistry and know all of us play as hard as we can,” said senior midfielder Stephanie Galarze in a previous article.

The 2012 season was a time for them to make a mark in the CSUN record books, with multiple players able to rewrite their individual statistics, career statistics, and put CSUN’s name into the national discussion.

Led by head coach Keith West, in his seventh season as the women’s coach, Northridge ranked second in the Big West standings by the end of the season, equaling their highest mark under West. Facing Long Beach State in their last regular season game, who defeated the Matadors at the 2011 Big West Tournament, CSUN began a streak of three 1-0 wins, resulting in two firsts for the program: a Big West Championship and NCAA Tournament berth.

“Our young ladies were not content just to be here, we wanted to make a statement in the NCAA, and make a statement to the rest of the country,” West said. “We are a team that’s going to make some noise and go after you and do things the right way, I’m proud of our group.”

Returning 2011 Big West Goalkeeper of the Year, senior Cynthia Jacobo and All-Big West Preseason Team senior defender Katie Russ help lead the Matadors defense to the top of the Big West. Posting a .64 goals against average, the Matadors led the Big West by nearly .50 over second place, and recorded shutouts in half their games played, 11 out of 22.

Jacobo, ending a stellar collegiate career, garnered her second straight Big West Goalkeeper of the Year award and second All-Big West First Team selection. Jacobo broke the career wins and shutout mark at CSUN with 33 wins and 27 shutouts.

Junior defender Chloe McDaniel picked up her first Big West Defender of the Year award, while accumulating five points during the season — two goals and an assist — starting all the Matador’s games.

Without a strong offensive performance throughout the season, the Matadors may have been left at home come postseason time. Led by senior forward Melissa Fernandez, the Matadors averaged nearly 15 shots per game, finding the net an average of 1.2 times per game. Blowout wins against Pacific University, Hawai’i and the University of San Diego highlighted the offensive charge of a lineup that went through changes throughout the season.

Fernandez, the Big West Tournament MVP, led the Matadors in their offensive attack with 21 points on eight goals, including four game winners and five assists. After winning All-Big West Second Team honors in 2011, Fernandez ended her senior season with her first All-Big West First Team honors.
Senior midfielder Stephanie Galarze earned All-Big West Second Team honors and Russ ended her career with an All-Big West Honorable Mention. Freshman midfielder Taylor Hobson, a future cornerstone of the Matadors, earned an All-Big West Honorable Mention and an All-Big West Freshman Team.

Falling short of the single season mark for wins, 12, the Matadors accumulated a 11-5-6 overall record and were 6-1-2 in conference play. The Big West had two teams, CSUN and Long Beach State, that were invited to participate in the NCAA Tournament.

“I have to give a lot of credit to our conference, the Big West Conference is a tough one to play in,” said West. “Our conference did a phenomenal job preparing us for the tournament.”

Unable to complete their ultimate goal of winning the NCAA Championship, the Matadors put CSUN on the map as a soccer powerhouse.

“I just feel like there’s more to come, I’m so blessed to play with all these players, but for the coming years I just think there’s more success for this program,” said redshirt sophomore forward Brittanie Sakajian.