The first day of the season wasn’t an omen of 2008. It was a home game against Georgetown, which the Matadors dropped. Also lost that day: two starters, forward Devin Deld’oacute; and the team’s ‘quarterback,’ midfielder Rafael Garcia.
Head Coach Terry Davila spoke clearly following the loss. They had to move on. His players listened. CSUN rallied. Three consecutive victories came, followed by two defeats in a row. The path was bumpy. There was a last-minute win against an undefeated team, a tie on the all-might Bruins’ turf, an overtime road loss to the No. 2 team in the nation. Northridge got its young, untested players some real experience.
Then the Big West Conference season rolled around. CSUN got out of its first game with a win, but a huge loss in an injury to their leading scorer, forward Moy Gomez. Others stepped up, but injuries kept trying to slow the Matadors down. Forward Cameron Sims was out for weeks after having an appendectomy. There was only one other forward left: Camilo Rojas, a sophomore.
Rojas didn’t disappoint. His efforts kept CSUN afloat in one of the toughest conferences in all of college soccer. Then Sims came back, midfielder Sunghyun Kim more than held his own and goalkeeper Kevin Guppy was a wall at net. Northridge was in good shape.
The Matadors had a key stretch to end the season. They lost at home to UCSB and won two on the road at Riverside and Fullerton to set themselves up for a do-or-die showdown at home against UC Irvine. CSUN lost that game with just two minutes remaining in regulation. As a result, Northridge, who was just separated by four points from the conference champion, the Anteaters, was sent home much earlier that it should have.
Testy season. Disappointing, but successful.
Davila said it best: ‘Any team in the nation would take playing in just one game to win the championship.’ The Matadors got to that point. They lost, but a goal was accomplished, one that any team in the nation would take. Here’s to some of them, a recognition of their individual accomplishments:
Welcome award: Cameron Sims, forward
In just his first season as a transfer from Mt. San Antonio College, Sims brought an immediate impact to the Matador attacking lineup. He scored in back-to-back games early in the season and soon enough got the nod from Davila to become a starter. An injury and a suspension marred his productivity as non-league play closed down, but Sims re-appeared late into the Big West season in two must-win road games. The junior scored three times in those games to put the Matadors in position to win the league title in their last home game against UC Irvine.
Revolution award: Camilo Rojas, forward
As Matador forwards kept going down, Rojas stepped up. The sophomore became the go-to-guy at the front of CSUN’s attacking lines. Rojas scored five of his team-leading seven 2008 goals during conference play. He stood tallest when it counted the most. Some of his most clutch goals include: A game-winning goal with 24 seconds left against Cal State Fullerton in 2OT; a header against UC Santa Barbara to give CSUN a momentary 1-0 lead at home; and the tying 1-1 against UC Irvine while the Matadors played with just 10 men.
Leader award:’ Kevin Guppy, goalie
Guppy had the most saves out of all Big West keepers while the real season was taking place. What else can you ask from the guy? For four years he started in every single men’s soccer game except for one. He dedicated his college career to the team. It’s a shame Guppy couldn’t save CSUN from the last-minute, season-ending goal against UC Irvine, but like he said, it’s not something to ‘dwell’ on. In an uncertain season full of injuries and impediments, the Matadors always looked to Guppy for reassurance.
Helping award: Sunghyun Kim, midfielder
Kim is soft spoken but made a lot of noise on the field. The junior did everything in 2008. His specialty, though: assisting. Besides scoring five goals for the season, Kim had a team-leading seven assists in the year. Five of them came in Big West play. Three of those happened in the last two games. His last one was a perfect pass to Camilo Rojas’s head for the momentary 1-1 tie against UC Irvine. Kim did more than his share to keep the Matadors in striking position in 2008.
Gutsy award: Moy Gomez, forward
When the then-team leading scorer, Gomez, went down with a should-have-been-season-ending ACL injury in the first game of Big West play, it was clear CSUN just couldn’t get a break. Already down two starters, they now had to manage without the one who had stepped it up the most. Thankfully, others picked up the slack. That didn’t stop him from attempting a comeback, though, torn ACL and all. He was back 20 days later wearing a protective leg brace. In his words, he ‘just wanted to help.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ But his knee didn’t allow it. Gomez had to be helped off the field for good just a game after.
Soul award: Terry Davila, head coach
Davila won’t take much’ credit for the challenges overcome this season. True, the Matadors fell short of the Big West Tournament, but 2008 was by no means a flop. Injuries and suspensions might have been a blessing in disguise. Players flourished under Davila’s ‘no time to feel sorry for ourselves’ system. Like all coaches, he was a pain at times, but there was mutual respect and a belief that someone would always step in to fill whatever void necessary. That came from Davila. No team grew more in 2008 than CSUN. A lot of the credit is his, even if he won’t take it.
NOT SO-AWARDY AWARDS:
Good feet award: Gomez
Blame it on the Matador Field DJ or on Gomez’ good mood for coming back from his injury, but the junior couldn’t help himself during halftime of the Matadors’ 0-0 tie at home against Cal Poly and ‘busted’ a couple of steps to Daddy Yankee’s ‘Rompe.’ Those same feet scored four goals in 2008.
Wardrobe award: Brandon Ibarra, goalie There was a Matador injured on the field in a home game against UCSB and Davila didn’t have anyone available to sub him out. Within the rules, the only one who could replace the player was Ibarra, a goalkeeper, whom the coach sent in. His stint lasted less than a minute.’ The referee ordered him off the field because he was wearing the wrong socks: white, goalkeeping ones, instead of black.
Temperature award: Jeremy Hohn, defender Hohn backed the last line of defensive protection to Guppy effectively, but made a couple of hot-headed decisions in 2008. He was shown two red cards in Big West play. The one that hurt the most was an out-of-frustration, blatant foul against an Anteater Saturday. His ejection left the Matadors, who were down 1-0 at the moment, with 10 men. Hohn can’t afford similar situations come next season.