Two-game race to Big West Tournament starts in Fullerton

Alonso Tacanga

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Let’s do the math. The Matadors are in fifth place in the Big West Conference with two games to go. They’re one point away from No. 4, also the number of teams that make it into the conference tournament. If UC Santa Barbara loses tonight and then ties Saturday’hellip; or instead, if Cal Poly loses to the Gauchos’hellip; or what if UC Davis wins their last game?’hellip;eh, forget it. There’s a much simpler way to get in: win two games. That’s all CSUN’s got to do to qualify and even, possibly, get a semifinal round game at home.

Of course that’s much easier said than done. Tonight, they are on the road against a team they barely beat at home the last time around, Cal State Fullerton. The Matadors broke the Titans’ hearts on Oct. 18 when Camilo Rojas scored the game-winning 3-2 with just 24 seconds left in double overtime. CSUF is sure to remember the taste of that defeat, one of 13 in 2008, in particular. They only have four points in the conference, but their record is deceiving. All their losses have been close contests. They went on the road and tied the then-No. 7 team in the nation. They’ve given problems to all their Big West ‘big brothers.’ No one wants to face these guys, but the Matadors have no choice and say they’re focused and ready. Win that and they’ll set themselves up for a movie-like showdown at home Saturday against No. 11 UC Irvine, currently the fourth seed in the Big West.

Date: Tonight
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Titan Stadium, Fullerton
Series: Matadors lead 13-12-2
Last Meeting: Oct. 18 Titans 2 @ Northridge 3

Interesting fact: During the Titans 2-2 double-overtime tie at No. 15 UC Davis, Fullerton led 2-0 with 15 minutes left in the game. Two quick Aggie goals spoiled the super upset.

Matador to watch: Kevin Guppy, senior goalkeeper

Guppy’s last road game of his Matador regular-season career is here. CSUN needs to score, but it also needs to keep its goal clean. There’s no better man for the job than Guppy, who’s started every game at goal for CSUN since the 2005 season. The senior out of Chino Hills High School leads the Big West Conference in saves per game (4.24) and has only allowed 19 goals in 2008. However, nine of those scores have come in the last five games. Guppy ‘- and his defense ‘- will have to pick it up.

Titan to watch: Michael Denny, freshman midfielder

There’s some players that just get it right away. Denny is one of them. The freshman was thrown into the fire of starting for the Titans very early into his career, and he hasn’t let them down. He’s Fullerton’s second leading scorer and a handful for anyone who’s guarding him. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, not a whole lot of people are going to knock him down. He’s a scorer. He’s a distributor. CSUN goalkeeper Kevin Guppy remembers him. Denny beat him once with a beautiful, potent, low free kick in the Matadors and Titans’ last meeting.

What did he say?

Cameron Sims, CSUN forward
On the Titans wanting to repay the favor of the last game and breaking the Matadors’ hearts:

‘They know they’re not really in the run anymore. They’re just going to go out there and play their hearts out just to try to keep us from moving on (to the tournament). They’re going to go out there and work their hardest and try to finish out their season good.’