The Matadors just can’t seem to find the back of the net.
Northridge was defeated by the UC Riverside Highlanders 1-0 Thursday afternoon at Matador Field. It marked the third straight game that the Matadors were held scoreless in a contest.
‘You just have to score goals,’ said Head Coach Keith West. ‘That’s all it comes down to. You have to score goals, and we didn’t do that.’
For 82 minutes, the Highlanders couldn’t do it either. But in the 83rd minute, reigning Big West Offensive Player of the Year Tessa Lennala was able to put the ball past Leah Elliot for the game-winning goal.
After Riverside had a couple of failed attempts at the net, Elliot cleared the ball away. However, Lennala was able to get the ball back. She turned around and fired it at the goal, and it bounced over Elliot’s outstretched arms in the top left corner of the net. It was Lennala’s 10th goal this season.
‘It was just bad luck for us,’ said Matador senior captain Nalena Betancourt.
The Matadors got a sense of urgency to tie the game in the final minutes, but they were unable to break through. The loss was their first at home this year.
The first half of the game saw a lot of back and forth action, and was mostly played in the middle of the pitch. Neither side could get many clear looks at the goal.
With 18 minutes left in the first half, Northridge senior Tryna Tafoya took a free kick that bounced around in the box. Three different Matadors were able to connect with the ball but none of them could get it centered for a chance at the net. That would prove to be the closest Northridge would get to scoring in the first half.
Riverside’s best chance of the half came in the final seconds. Katie Sheldon sent in a shot from just outside the right box. Elliot leaped up and punched the ball in the air. However, the ball ended up hitting the top crossbar and nearly bounced in the net, but the Matadors were able to survive the scare.
‘We played an amazing first half,’ said Betancourt. ‘It’s too bad we weren’t able to score.’
With the match scoreless, the Highlanders came out of the locker room extremely aggressive to start the second half. They sent the ball into the box multiple times in the opening minutes, but couldn’t put much pressure on Elliot once it got there.
The intensity began to pick up midway through the half and play became very aggressive. Players were getting knocked over, and many fouls were being called. Northridge finished with a total of 18 fouls in the match, while Riverside had 10.
Matador sophomore Erin Kelly received a yellow card in the 69th minute for what the referee saw as a late hit. Ten minutes later, Highlander defender Ciara Hilpert was shown a yellow card for the same reason.
The closest the Matadors would get to scoring in the second period would be in the 79th minute. Kelly launched a shot from the top of the box that was saved by Brittany Goetz.
However, after she made the save the ball bounced away from her and headed toward the foot of a Northridge player. Goetz was able to swallow up the rebound, though. Goetz finished the game with six saves, while Elliot had two.
The Matadors were left with one final game Sunday, where they still were in contention for a Big West Conference playoff berth. A win against Cal State Fullerton and combined with losses by UC Irvine and Pacific was the only way they could get into the playoffs.
‘The key is being ready to play,’ said West. ‘It all comes down to one game.’