The Matadors were having trouble finding the back of the net, so their opponents lent them a hand. Freshman Nancy Avesyan did the rest.
CSUN fell behind early in the second half and began playing catch up. A lucky deflection helped them trap the tie. Then, just as overtime loomed about Matador Soccer Field, Avesyan put in the winning goal to give the Matadors (7-7-1, 2-2-0) a 2-1 victory over the Pacfic Tigers (8-6-1, 3-2-1) Sunday.
‘We’ve been through so much this season,’ said Head Coach Keith West. ‘This game really showed the spirit of the team. We were down, but we didn’t quit. The girls wanted the win and they took it.’
The first half saw the Tigers dominate possession of the ball and see plenty of opportunities to score as they unloaded eight shots at the net. The Matadors, on the other hand, got only one shot off in the first 45 minutes of play and looked frustrated by their lack of chances heading into halftime.
The Tigers put in the game’s first goal in the 52nd minute. Kylee Ah Choy took a free kick and sent a pass into the box. Matador goalkeeper Leah Elliot attempted to grab the ball out of the air, but before she could get to it, the ball found the head of Alex Topp, who put it in the net.
‘It’s always tough going down a goal,’ said Northridge senior Tryna Tafoya. ‘We found a way to fight back, though.’
And back they fought as the following minutes saw the Matadors finally get clear looks at the goal. Katie Coulas nearly tied the game in the 56th minute, but Tiger goalkeeper Amanda McNab made a leaping save over her head to preserve Pacific’s lead.
Then with just over 20 minutes left in the game, the most unusual play of the Matador season unfolded. Tafoya took a free kick and sent the ball into the box. Tiger defender Chelsea Gomes tried to head the ball away, but her attempt went wrong. She hit the ball with the back of her head and it went right into her own goal as McNab looked on incredulous. The game was tied.
‘I just tried to get it as close to the goal as possible,’ said Tafoya. ‘I was looking for Kristal (Phillips), but I wasn’t able to get it to her. But sometimes we get lucky.’
The play gave the game new life. For the remainder of the match, both teams got a frantic sense or urgency and the intensity picked up. The sidelines stayed on their feet throughout cheering on their teammates.
Pacific had the first opportunities to untie the game. Lydia Jackson and Natalie Wong each blasted shots towards the goal, but Elliot controlled them both. She finished the game with four saves.
On the other end of the field, the Matadors had a great look when Sydney Vermillion passed the ball to a streaking Brielle Slepicoff. The freshman took a shot that required McNab to make a dive for the save.
Then, with less than three minutes to play, Avesyan found the back of the net for the game winner. It was her second game-winning goal in as many games. Coulas originally took a shot, but it was blocked; then Katie Fox had an attempt at it, but McNab saved it. Finally, off the Pacific save, the ball ended up at Avesyan’s feet. She booted it in and the Matadors were on their way to their second straight home win.
‘I was actually knocked down on the play,’ said Avesyan, who won shared Big West Conference Player of the Week honors for her two-goal weekend. ‘I popped up and the ball came right to my feet. I just took a hard shot and it went in.’
The Tigers couldn’t get any more looks at Elliot’s goal, cementing the Matador victory.
The result put the Matadors at sixth place in the Big West. Pacific dropped from first to second following loss.
Northridge will hit the road this weekend for games against UC Irvine and Long Beach State.