Men’s soccer in search of Big West points in the Inland Empire

Alonso Tacanga

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The Matadors are coming off a difficult loss at home to UC Santa Barbara. They were playing well and looked in control, but then, in just 10 seconds, it was all gone. Now, they are forced to win. It’s that or bye bye Big West Conference Tournament. With that being said, they have a great shot at getting their first win in four games Saturday as they visit the Highlanders of UC Riverside. They’re last place, so it should be an easy win, right? Not so fast, says Head Coach Terry Davila. He considers UC Riverside just as tough a game as the one he just came off.

Who understands how the Big West works? Can Davila be the only one? His explanation is the only thing that kind of makes sense when you look at UC Riverside. For you see, the Highlanders have lost every single match of their conference schedule, except for one. Who, you ask, could possibly be sorry enough to lose to last-place UC Riverside? Easy, none other than the No. 7 team in the nation, UC Davis. And AT Davis.

So Davila explains to us that every team in the Big West is even. All seven squads are skilled enough to beat any other in the league. So it doesn’t matter that the Highlanders are 1-6-0 in the Big West, or that they’ve been outscored by 11 by their conference opponents, or even that they couldn’t handle Cal State Bakersfield at home. The Matadors already faced them once and it took a lucky deflection and some late roughing-up defensively to preserve a nerve-wrecking 1-0 home win. CSUN goalkeeper Kevin Guppy was the hero that afternoon and he’s probably going to matter a lot again if the Matadors are to win in the city of the navel orange. Hey, someone’s got to play just for the joy of spoiling another team’s season and the Highlanders are sure to want to make Northridge a victim of that sick custom, especially since they probably remember CSUN’s Jeremy Hohn dropping defender Joel Crompton with a kick late in the Oct. 5 game.

Date: Saturday
Time: 3: p.m.
Place: UCR Soccer Stadium
Series: Matadors lead 14-1-6
Last Meeting: Oct. 5, 2008, UCR 0 @ Northridge 1

Interesting fact: It has been 27 years since the Highlanders last defeated the Matadors (2-1 at Riverside)

Matador to watch:
Sophomore Camilo Rojas, forward

The last time around, he was ejected. Oh what a difference four weeks make. Rojas is now the Matadors’ leading scorer with six goals and arguably their most aggressive player. Before a defense that allows more than two goals per game, the sophomore is sure to find a few opportunities to add to his score count and lead his team to victory. Nevertheless, Rojas is no longer flying under radar. He’s on a scoring streak. He is ‘the man.’ Opposing teams are focusing on him now. Can he handle it?

Highlander to watch:
Sophomore Ryan Schmitz, goalkeeper

Going into Wednesday, the Matadors were responsible for only one of the 34 goals scored on Schmitz and the Highlanders this season. Thirty four goals in 16 games? That’s definitely tops in the Big West. That actually more than doubled the number of goals scored against the No. 2 goal-allowing keeper. How could Schmitz still be starting? Because, believe it or not, he’s one of the best in the conference. The sophomore ranks second in saves, but his defense is letting him down. He’ll be looking for his first shutout in Big West play Saturday.

What did he say?

Terry Davila, Head Coach on UC Riverside and the last games of the season:

‘It’s going to take every ounce of energy for us to win that game at their place. It’ll take’ ‘ every bit of energy, every bit of mental toughness and every bit of technique, every bit of execution. The last three games? Hell, I don’t know what’s going to happen.’