NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Eight Cal State Northridge men's soccer players received All-Big West honors and head coach Terry Davila was named the Big West Conference Coach of the Year, the conference office announced Monday afternoon. In addition, Joe Franco was named the Defensive Player of the Year and Michael Abalos was voted as the Goalkeeper of the Year in a poll of the league's head coaches.
For the first time in Big West Conference soccer history, an institution earned the league's Defensive Player and Goalkeeper of the Year awards on both the men's and women's sides.
Davila earned his sixth Big West Coach of the Year award and fifth as the head coach of the men's program. He won the award as the women's soccer head coach in 2004. This season, Davila's side ran away with the Big West South Division by claiming the division title with a 7-3 record and 21 points.
The Matadors went 13-6 in the regular season and recorded their highest win total since 2005, a season in which Davila also won Coach of the Year. The 13 victories stand as the fourth-highest win total in school history and the seven Big West victories are the most since 2005 as well.
Senior co-captain Joe Franco earned Defensive Player of the Year honors after helping Northridge build the stingiest defense in the league. Franco has started every match for the Matadors in his four-year career and led CSUN to eight shutouts this season, the most in the Big West. Northridge posted the second-best goals against average (0.93) in the conference and tied for the fewest goals allowed (18).
This season, Franco has one goal, one assist and three points. He scored the second goal of his career in the opening match of the season against Portland and had an assist in CSUN's 2-0 win over UC Davis to open Big West play. Franco becomes the first player since Edwin Miranda (2002-03) to win the Big West's top defensive award. Last season, Franco was an All-Big West Honorable Mention.
Senior goalkeeper Michael Abalos was named the Goalkeeper of the Year for the first time in his career and becomes just the third Matador to win the award. He joins the elite company of Joe Barton (2002) and Kevin Guppy (2005, 2008) as goalkeepers to earn the honor. This season, Abalos went 12-6 with a 0.99 goals against average and led the Big West with six shutouts in net.
He ranked fourth in goals against average, fifth in saves (53) and fifth in save percentage (.746) in the conference. Abalos allowed one goal or less in 15 of his 18 matches this year to help the Matadors win the Big West South Division. Abalos will leave CSUN at the end of the season ranking as one of the Big West's all-time leaders in saves (256, 9th), wins (28, T-7th), shutouts (20, 9th), minutes played (6326, 4th), and matches in goal (70, 4th). Prior to this season, Abalos was twice named an Honorable Mention (2009, 2011).
In addition to their individual honors, both Abalos and Franco were named to the All-Big West First Team.
Joining Abalos and Franco on the First Team is sophomore forward Edwin Rivas. Rivas is tied for second on the team with eight goals and also has three assists for 19 points. Rivas leads the conference with 69 shots and is tied for third in total points.
An Honorable Mention last season, Rivas worked his way onto the First Team after scoring three goals during conference play. His two-goal performance at UC Riverside on October 27 clinched the South Division title for the Matadors.
Four Northridge players earned Second Team Honors, all for the first time. Senior midfielder Rene Anguiano adds the recognition to two Honorable Mentions on his resume and is joined by sophomore forward Sagi Lev-Ari, junior forward Beto Velasquez and senior defender Armando Gutierrez.
Anguiano recorded one goal and two assists this season as a central midfielder and helped CSUN win its first home overtime match in over three seasons. Against UC Riverside on October 13, Anguiano blasted home a ball from outside of the box to give the Matadors a 2-1 victory in double overtime.
Lev-Ari leads the Big West with 12 goals and 24 points in his first year with the Matadors. He finished the regular season second in the league with five game-winning goals and currently ranks 17th in the country in goals scored.
Velasquez is tied with Rivas with eight goals and also has one assist for 17 points. He has three game winning goals on the year, including the only goal at UC Santa Barbara as the Matadors defeated the Gauchos on the road for the first time since 1999.
Gutierrez is a member of the backline with Franco that leads the league with eight shutouts. He scored the game-winning goal at UC Irvine on October 20, cleaning up a header in front of net in the 80th minute.
Midfielder Carlos Benavides rounded out the awards for Cal State Northridge by being named an Honorable Mention. Benavides tied for the conference lead with eight assists and is tied for fourth on the team with eight points. Benavides led the Big West with eight assists last season as well.
The eight student-athletes honored were the most of any school in the conference. Cal Poly placed six on the postseason awards list to rank second.
The Matadors and Mustangs meet on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at Matador Soccer Field in the Semifinal Round of the Big West Tournament.