Matadors split first two homestand games

Matt Crosson

The CSUN women’s soccer team began their four-game home stand with a win and a loss, moving them into third place in the Big West Conference.

The Matadors defeated UC Riverside 2-1 in a hard-fought game Oct. 6 and fell to Cal State Fullerton 1-0 Oct. 8, in a game in which Northridge failed to find their offensive rhythm.

Their performance over the weekend puts them at 8-6-0 overall and 2-2-0 in the Big West.

“We’ve got to take care of home field,” said head coach Keith West after the victory over Riverside.

The Matadors got on the board early against Riverside. In the 12th minute, Devon Nizich lifted a corner kick that was headed by Susie Mischenko in front of the goal. Sara Davis corralled the loose ball and flicked it to Nalena Betancourt, who volleyed it into the back of the net to give CSUN a 1-0 lead.

“I just happened to be open,” said Betancourt of her first goal of the season. “I just one-touched it past the keeper.”

Northridge controlled possession of the ball throughout most of the first half. Riverside top-scorer Tessa Lennala orchestrated the few scoring chances for the Highlanders. She weaved her way through the Matador defense to get a perfect look at the goal in the 16th minute. Her shot was a slow roller that was scooped by goalkeeper April Cline.

Lennala finally broke through the stubborn Northridge backline in the 39th minute. She fought through three defenders and arched a long shot from the left side, past a diving Cline and into the top right corner of the net, tying the game at 1-1.

The goal took momentum away from the Matadors.

West rested top-scorers Kristal Phillips and Carrie Faith Murphy for the final 13 minutes of the half and the Matadors failed to produce another legitimate scoring opportunity.

Northridge came out with renewed fire in the second half. They gave Riverside goalie Tawny Poggio a run for her money, launching nine shots compared to their four-shot output in the first.

Poggio finally yielded to the Matador attack in the 71st minute when Davis crossed the ball from the left wing to Phillips, who headed it over the keeper. This was Phillips’ team-leading sixth goal of the season.

“The defender misread it and I was right there behind her,” Phillips said. “We kept working our offense and we finally got one in.”

CSUN had a scary moment with less than five minutes left as Ashley Parks got through the Northridge defense and crossed the ball to Jenna Leonti, who missed a wide-open shot. Northridge controlled the ball at midfield for the last few minutes of the game.

The loss drops the Highlanders to 7-5-0 overall and 0-2-0 in the Big West.

“That was a good team we beat right there,” West said. “I think our girls are really starting to believe we can beat anybody.”

The Matadors looked like a completely different team against Fullerton. They weren’t able to generate the scoring opportunities they did against Riverside, and Titan goalkeeper Karen Bardsley gobbled up every shot that came near her.

Their defense looked strong, as usual, but a mishandling of the ball by Cline led to a goal by Erica Janke. The one goal was all the Titans needed as the Matadors failed to record a shot in the final 38 minutes of the game.

The win improves Fullerton’s record to 7-5-1 and a perfect 3-0-0 in conference play. That puts them in second place, behind Long Beach State.

West remains confident about the Matadors’ chances in the conference.

“There’s nobody in the Big West that’s that far ahead of anybody else,” said West. “It’s a wide-open race right now.”

The Matadors continue their homestand against conference-rival UC Davis Oct. 13 at Matador Soccer Field.