Do-or-die time for Matadors against UCI

Alonso Tacanga

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It’s funny how one week can make things so much easier for a team. No. 11 UC Irvine, despite being ranked nationally, was not looking at all like a lock to make it into the Big West Conference Tournament, winning only one of its first six conference games. Since, they’ve won three straight, including a Saturday night 3-1 victory over UC Santa Barbara at Santa Barbara. They have taken charge of their own postseason destiny. Before they move on, though, they have to knock off one last pesky obstacle: The Matadors.

CSUN is coming off an emotional, thrilling 3-2 double-overtime win at Cal State Fullerton. They did their part. They’re within striking distance of the Anteaters, just one point. UC Irvine, on an unbeaten streak of seven games, sure isn’t loving the Matadors’ resistance to die in the tough Big West. After a 3-1 home loss to UC Santa Barbara Oct. 29, Northridge looked like it had thrown away its best chance at qualifying to the tourney.

However, back-to-back road wins have put the Matadors back on the map.

This is a game to keep a season alive. Which one is it going to be? The Matadors already faced the Anteaters once, at Irvine, and got a scoreless tie. This time around they know they have to score. CSUN is on a winning streak and confident. They feel they can get the job done. The Anteaters are no pushover, however. If they were ever in any shortage of points to qualify, it certainly wasn’t because they were getting beat. They were just not winning. They were tying too much – six times this season. UC Irvine has only lost once in 2008, at home to the Gauchos. Northridge must out-will the Anteaters.

nly a win can assure them a spot in the Tournament. A tie can also work, if UC Davis loses to UC Santa Barbara, but why take risks? The Matadors haven’t depended on anyone for a good while. This isn’t the time to start doing it.

Date: Saturday
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Place: Matador Field, Northridge
Series: Matadors lead 16-11-4
Last Meeting: CSUN 0 @ UC Irvine 0, Oct. 15

Interesting Fact: Irvine is a tying machine. They’ve had six ties in 2008. At the same time, they’ve only lost once this season, at home to UC Santa Barbara.

Matador to watch: Sunghyun Kim, midfielder, junior

Kim has raised his production in the stat sheet as the season has boiled down to its last games. He’s scored three of his five 2008 goals in the Matadors last six games and had two huge assists in the must-have win against the Titans in Fullerton. In what will be a showdown for a chance to advance to the postseason in front of his home crowd, he’s sure to bring it once again. The Matadors chances lie in good feet.

Anteater to watch: Spencer Thompson, forward, soph.

Thompson had the finishing goal of the game that has made the whole difference in UC Irvine’s season, their 3-1 win at UC Santa Barbara. The forward out of Ahwatukee, Az. is just in his second season as an Anteater, but already has demonstrated prowess at the position, scoring eight goals in 17 games – all starts. Thompson is not only a scorer, though. He’s also a distributor. The sophomore has five assists in 2008. He’s a double-edged sword for the Anteaters.

What did he say?

Camilo Rojas, CSUN forward on the do-or-die, last game of the season against the Anteaters:

‘It’s what we’re really looking for. It’s the deciding game, to see whether we’re in or not. Last time we played them it was 0-0. There were close calls for both teams for goals. We’re just going to come out and look for a victory.’