The Matadors will take their three-game winning streak to the East coast this weekend to face Wisconsin and UW-Milwaukee in their third and final tournament of the 2008 regular season, the 35th Annual Panther Invitational.
The four-team Invitational will be hosted by UW-Milwaukee and has each participant play two games against different opponents. Binghamton is also part of the tournament, but the Matadors won’t play them.
‘We’re just going to improve on what we’ve been working on,’ said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. ‘We’re trying to become more cohesive as a unit defensively and offensively. We’re getting our players to understand their roles better so that they can contribute.’
Northridge opens on Friday against a strong, undefeated Badger squad. Wisconsin (3-0-1) climbed into the rankings of Soccer America, a prestigious magazine devoted to the sport, and also received votes in the NSCAA/adidas coaches poll this week. They recently defeated No. 20 Santa Clara and one of their players, junior Pablo Delgado, has just been named Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
Delgado leads the Badgers in scoring thus far with two goals, same as teammate midfielder Scott Lorenz. The team isn’t a scoring machine as all their victories have come by a difference of just one goal, but they’re consistent. Matador goalkeeper Kevin Guppy isn’t as worried about them as he is about his own team, however.
‘We need to just follow coach Davila’s game plan because it’s more about us and what we are going to do versus reacting to them,’ said Guppy.
The Matadors will also have to win knowing that they’re two starters short for the rest of the season. Midfielder Rafael Garcia and forward Devin Deld’oacute; are both out for 2008 after rupturing their ACL’s in the first game of the season, a home loss against Georgetown. Ironically, their winning streak began after the unlucky match.
‘(Garcia and Deld’oacute;) are good players, but we’re not a one-man show,’ Davila said. After facing Wisconsin, the Matadors have a day off. Then on Sunday, they’re right back to work. They will face UW-Milwaukee in what – should CSUN beat Wisconsin – could be the game for the championship.
The UW-Milwaukee squad is a bit of a mystery. They began their 2007 season by dropping their first eight games, but bounced back to get a 5-2-1 Horizon League record and a No.2 tournament seed. Their season came to an end with a 1-0 loss to eventual-NCAA Tournament Elite Eight-member UIC.
They also lost six seniors to graduation, including All-leaguers Steve Bode and Zeke Dombrowski. Their team is composed of newcomers in its majority.
Guppy is not giving the Panthers any thought at the moment, though. He’s too focused on the Badgers, his immediate task.
‘We are only looking at our next opponent and focusing on what is ahead,’ he said. ‘I know that (the assistant coaches) will put together a solid game plan where our experience can be utilized in the best possible way.’