The 2008 CSUN women’s soccer team is one with talent and potential, but also one with a tough road ahead of them if they want to reach their ultimate goal of a Big West Conference championship.
After a 10-win season back in 2006, the Matadors, led by third-year head coach Keith West, won only five games in 2007 and finished seventh in their nine-team conference.They were affected by a slow start as they didn’t get their first win until the fifth game of the year, when they defeated Baylor University 2-1 at Matador Field.
They realize the beginning of the season is critical.
‘Getting that first win under our belt is crucial,’ said assistant coach Derek Hanks. ‘It sets the tone for the whole year.’
If the Matadors start the year with the same effort they had at the end of last season, then it shouldn’t take long to get victory number one. They lost only one contest in their final six games in 2007.
‘What we did in the last part of the season was great,’ said Hanks. ‘But this is a new season. We have to take that confidence we showed last year and build on it.’
‘ ‘ ‘ They will try to build on that as they are led by senior team captains Nalena Betancourt and Tryna Tafoya. Also, sophomore Ivette Esqueda, who was the goalkeeper during the Matador’s season-ending six-game run, will return to the net to start the 2008 campaign.
Esqueda will have to be on top of her game throughout the season if the Matadors’ offensive struggles from a year ago resume. In 2007, CSUN didn’t score more than a goal in 14 of their 18 total outings, helping their goal-per-game average for the season to fall to under less than one per match.
‘We are definitely farther along at this point than we were last year, both defensively and offensively,’ Hanks said.
That says a lot, considering that the Matadors lost two of last season’s best players to graduation. Those women, Susie Mischenko and Kristy Krohn, were vital as leaders in 2007 and now Northridge is counting on returning players to fill that void.
‘Nalena (Betancourt) and I are captains,’ said Tafoya, a midfielder. ‘But pretty much all the seniors on our team are taking on leadership roles and the juniors are stepping it up as well. We have a lot of upper classmen this semester.?
To help the cause, there are eight incoming freshmen on the team this year, including two standouts in Nicole Cruz and Emily Geckle. Both players come from Thousand Oaks High School and earned first-team all-league honors as seniors.
In addition to the newcomers, there is a couple of returning players who missed most, if not all, of the 2007 season.Sophomore Farryn Townley will return after playing in only four matches last year due to injury, and senior Kristal Phillips will be on the pitch for the first time since 2006. These two, along with junior forward Adrienne Dickerson, will be counted on to find the back of the Matador rivals? nets.
The season opened up last Friday against San Diego State at home, where the Matadors went 4-2-2 in 2007. They play two of their next three games at Matador field before hitting the road for nine of their next ten, including a huge away game against last season?s national champion, USC, on Oct. 5.
?We have some big-time games with some big-time conferences this year,? said Hanks. ?If we can have a good preseason, it will set us up to be successful in our Big West season.?
The USC match will conclude their non-conference portion of the schedule as they open up conference play on Oct. 10 at UC Santa Barbara, a team the Matadors beat in 2007. Their regular season will end at home on Nov. 2 when they host three-time defending conference champion Cal State Fullerton.
The Matadors hope to finish strong enough to secure a spot in the Big West Tournament. They want a shot at the ultimate prize.
?Our goal is to win the Big West championship every year,? said Hanks. ?We feel this year we have the team that can do it. Our priority is playing good soccer. If we play our game and stay consistent we will get a lot of big wins.??
08/29/08 vs. Southern Utah – Northridge, Calif. 11:30 a.m. PT 10/10/08 at UC Santa Barbara – Santa Barbara, Calif. 7:00 p.m. PT 08/31/08 at Cal State Bakersfield -Bakersfield, Calif. 7:00 p.m. PT 10/12/08 at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, Calif. 1:00 p.m. PT 09/05/08 vs. UNLV – Northridge, Calif. 4:30 p.m. PT 10/17/08 vs. UC Davis – Northridge, Calif. 2:30 p.m. PT 09/12/08 vs. California – Moraga, Calif. 2:00 p.m. PT 10/19/08 vs. Pacific – Northridge, Calif. 2:30 p.m. PT 09/14/08 at Saint Mary’s – Moraga, Calif. 2:30 p.m. PT 10/23/08 at UC Irvine – Irvine, Calif. 7:00 p.m. PT 09/19/08 at Arizona State – Tempe, Ariz. 7:00 p.m. PT 10/26/08 at Long Beach State – Long Beach, Calif. 12:00 p.m. PT 09/21/08 at Arizona – Tucson, Ariz. 1:00 p.m. PT 10/30/08 vs. UC Riverside – Northridge, Calif. 2:30 p.m. PT 09/28/08 vs. San Francisco – Northridge, Calif. 1:00 p.m. PT 11/02/08 vs. Cal St Fullerton – Northridge, Calif. 2:00 p.m. PT 10/03/08 at Loyola Marymount – Los Angeles, Calif. 4:00 p.m. PT 11/06/08 Big West Tournament Semifinals TBA 10/05/08 at USC – Los Angeles, Calif. 1:00 p.m. PT 11/09/08 Big West Tournament Finals TBA