November 9, 2012

Northridge Seeks Big West Crown at UC Davis in Tournament Final

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Big West Tournament Central

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

The Cal State Northridge Matadors (14-6, 7-3 Big West) hit the road for the most important match of the season this Saturday. Northridge, winners of the Big West South Division, will take on UC Davis (10-6-4, 7-3 Big West), the North Division Champions, for the Big West Tournament title. Neither side has ever won the Big West Tournament and Northridge has not been crowned as Big West Champions since 2005, four years before a postseason tournament was adopted. One team will punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Aggie Soccer Field in Davis, Calif.

Tickets for Saturday's match are $10 for general admission and $5 for students. The match will feature a live audio broadcast with Kevin Strauss handling play-by-play duties on GoMatadors.com. Fans can also access live stats coverage of the match by visiting the men's soccer schedule page on GoMatadors.com. On television, the match will be shown live on FOX Sports Prime Ticket, FOX Sports San Diego and FOX College Sports. Check your local listings for channel lineups.

Match #21 - Big West Tournament Final:
Matadors (14-6, 7-3 Big West) at UC Davis (10-6-4, 7-3-0 Big West)

Saturday, Nov. 10 - 1 p.m.
Aggie Soccer Field (1,000) - Davis, Calif.

Television: FOX Sports Prime Ticket, FOX San Diego, FOX College Sports
Live Stats:
Links Available at GoMatadors.com
Internet-Only Audio:
Kevin Strauss, Play-By-Play

Follow Your Matadors Online
All home matches this season will include live stats coverage and selected matches will also feature a free audio broadcast on GoMatadors.com. For road contests, related links to the game, including for any live stats, audio and video, will be posted before the match on the schedule page of GoMatadors.com. Fans are also encouraged to check the Cal State Northridge Athletics Department's official Twitter feed (@GoMatadors) for updates of matches in progress and news and notes throughout the week.

A Closer Look at UC Davis
The Matadors and Aggies will battle it out this Saturday at Aggie Soccer Field with each program looking for its first Big West Tournament Championship in school history. The Aggies won the Big West Conference North Division and defeated Cal State Fullerton 2-0 on Wednesday afternoon in Davis. Since losing at Northridge on September 28, the Aggies have gone 8-2. Their only losses during that stretch were their two matches against Cal Poly. UC Davis is 6-3 in home matches this year, also falling to Central Florida and Saint Mary's (CA).

A trio of Aggies leads the team with eight points apiece. Alex Aguiar and Matt Sheldon have identical totals of three goals and two assists while Alex Henry has two goals and four assists. Ryan Gross has scored twice and has three assists for seven points and both Kevin Schulte and Pat Reese are part of a four-way tie for first with three goals to their credit. Schulte was named to the All-Big West Conference Second Team earlier this month and Henry was named an Honorable Mention.

Goalkeeper Omar Zeenni will likely get the start in net again for UC Davis this Saturday. Zeenni, who was named to the All-Big West Second Team as well, has played in all but one match for the Aggies this season. He has a 10-5-4 record with six shutouts on the year and has made 67 saves. Zeenni has allowed just 18 goals and has a 0.90 goals against average in 2012.

UC Davis has won its last two matches but the Matadors have won two of the last three against the Aggies, including a 3-0 victory at Aggie Soccer Field last season.

Recap of Big West Semifinal
The Cal State Northridge Matadors defeated the Cal Poly Mustangs on Wednesday night at Matador Soccer Field to earn thier first trip to the Big West Tournament Final in school history. Previously, Northridge's only appearance in the Big West Tournament resulted in a loss at UC Santa Barbara in the Semifinal Round in 2009. Two second-half goals fueled the Matador attack as CSUN held off the Mustangs for a 2-0 win. Northridge will now take on UC Davis at Aggie Soccer Field in Davis, Calif. for the Big West's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Sagi Lev-Ari scored his conference-leading 13th goal of the season to open the scoring for the Matadors in the 60th minute. After forward Edwin Rivas received the ball from Carlos Benavides on the left side, he placed a perfect cross into the penalty area that Lev-Ari finished off with a volley past the Cal Poly goalkeeper. The goal stood as a blow to Cal Poly, as the Mustangs registered just two shots for nearly 25 minutes after the score. In the 85th minute, freshman forward Carlos Gonzalez put away the match for good by scoring the first goal of his career. Benavides played a pass to Chris Smith on the right side and Smith found Gonzalez in front of goal. Gonzalez then popped a shot over the goalkeeper from short range to add insurance to the CSUN lead.

Big West Goalkeeper of the Year Michael Abalos recorded four saves in net, including a top-class kick save on a breakaway chance with the match tied at 0-0, to collect his seventh shutout of the season.

Gearing Up for the Postseason
With a 2-1 win at UC Riverside on October 27, the Matadors clinched the Big West South Division and are in the postseason for the first time since 2009. After defeating Cal Poly in the Big West Semifinal round on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Matadors head north for the Championship Match at UC Davis on November 10. The Matadors are also looking to finish the season strong to build up their resume for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. The NCAA selection show will be live streamed at NCAA.com on Monday, Nov. 12 at 2:30 p.m. PT. Full postseason coverage, including links for Big West and NCAA Tournament broadcasts, will be posted when they become available at GoMatadors.com.

Rewriting the Record Books
One indication of the success goalkeeper Michael Abalos has earned so far in his career can be seen in the Matador record books. The San Juan Capistrano, Calif. native earned a spot on four different lists with his numbers earned during his career at Northridge. Abalos is now in sole possession of second with his 29 career victories, is sixth all-time with his 1.23 career goals against average and is second all-time with his 21 career shutouts. His seven clean sheets earned in 2011 and 2012 are also the third-highest number of shutouts earned in a season, tying him with Jeff Blumkin (1988) and Mike Caputo (1986) and their respective single-season performances. His 71 matches in goal are second on the all-time list. This season, Abalos has a 13-6 record with seven shutouts and a 0.94 goals against average.

Strike Force
Redshirt sophomore Edwin Rivas is picking up right where he left off at the end of last season. Heading into the Big West Final, Rivas has eight goals, four assists and 20 points. Rivas scored a goal and had an assist in Northridge's 4-0 win over Portland and scored the tying goal against American University in a 2-1 win. For his work over the first weekend, he was named the 2012 Wilson Titan Classic Offensive MVP and earned Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors as well. He scored the game-winning goal over Temple in a 2-1 win on September 16 and added an insurance goal against UC Davis on September 28 in a 2-0 win. He netted a pair of goals to lead CSUN to a 2-1 win and helped clinch the Big West South Division at UC Riverside on October 27. For his career, Rivas now has 13 goals, four assists and 30 points.

Everybody Needs a Little Lev-Ari
Sophomore forward Sagi Lev-Ari made a statement in his first match in a Northridge uniform. In the Matadors' 4-0 victory over the Portland Pilots on August 24, Lev-Ari scored the first and last goals of the match to secure his first four points of the season. He became the first Matador with a multiple-goal match since Rafael Garcia put in two penalty kicks at UC Davis on September 28, 2011. On September 2 at Loyola University Maryland, Lev-Ari scored his third goal of the campaign off of a free kick. Jose Luis Garcia touched a short ball to Lev-Ari who fired in a lined shot from about 22 yards out. Lev-Ari also scored two goals in wins over Army and San Diego and scored 21 seconds in to help CSUN defeat Cal Poly on the road on October 5. He followed that up with the game winner in CSUN's 2-0 win over Cal Poly in the Big West Tournament Semifinal. Lev-Ari currently leads the Big West and is 17th in the country as of November 5 with 13 goals scored. He is also tied for the conference lead with six game-winning goals.

Mr. Assist
Junior midfielder Carlos Benavides continues to help the Matadors find ways to score goals. After tying for the Big West Conference lead with eight assists and leading in assists per game (0.47), he took home the top spot in those categories again this season. At the Wilson Titan Classic Benavides picked up two assists, one in each of the Matadors' victories over Portland (4-0) and American (2-1). He also notched a pair of assists in CSUN's 5-0 win over Army on September 14 and had two in the Big West Semifinal win over Cal Poly (11/7). Benavides currently leads the Big West with 10 assists and 0.50 assists per game.

Welcome Home
Junior midfielder Beto Velasquez is a main cog of the Northridge offense and is third on the team with eight goals and 17 points. After transferring to CSUN from Virginia Tech, the Panorama City, Calif., native has helped Northridge to key victories in the team's quest to get back to the postseason. He scored the game-winning goal against American (8/26) as Northridge won the Wilson Titan Classic and also had the lone goal in CSUN's win at then-No. 4 UC Santa Barbara (10/7). Velasquez scored the only goal of the match in CSUN's home contest against Cal State Fullerton, curling in a free kick in the first half to score the eventual game winner.

One Plus One is Three or Four
Sophomore forward Edwin Rivas was the first Matador to put up a goal and an assist in the same match this season when he accomplished the feat against Portland on August 24. Sophomore forward Sagi Lev-Ari had two goals of his own in that match to record four points as each put up performances that are hard to come by. Lev-Ari followed up his display with another two-goal outing in a 5-0 win over Army (9/14) in Northridge's home opener and a pair of goals at San Diego (9/20). The forward scored the eventual game-winning goal in the sixth minute and added another in the 55th against Army and scored twice in the opening 10:27 against the Toreros to lead the Matadors to their largest margins of victory since a 6-1 win over Detroit on Aug. 31, 2007. Rivas added another multi-point performance, scoring twice in a match for the first time in his career in a 2-1 win at UC Riverside (10/27).

Matadors in the Big West Top Ten
In the final conference rankings of the regular season, a number of Matadors found their way into the individual Top 10 lists for the Big West Conference. Edwin Rivas leads the conference in shots taken (74). He ranks among the leaders in points (3rd - 20), points per game (3rd - 1.05), goals (T-3rd - 8) and goals per game (T-4th - 0.42). He also leads the league with 3.89 shots per game. Sagi Lev-Ari ranks first with 1.30 points per game and is fourth in the Big West with 58 shots taken. Lev-Ari is the league leader in points (26), goals (13) and goals per game (0.65). Beto Velasquez checks in at seventh with 17 points and is tied for third with eight goals. Carlos Benavides leads the Big West with 10 assists and 0.50 assists per game while David Turcios and Chris Smith are fifth with six assists and Yuval Barak are tied for ninth with five. Goalkeeper Michael Abalos ranks fourth in the conference in goals against average (0.94), is fifth in save percentage (.760) and tied for seventh in saves per game (3.00). He leads the league with 0.37 shutouts per game and seven shutouts. His 57 saves are fifth among all Big West goalkeepers. Stats are current as of November 8.

Manufacturing Points
The Cal State Northridge Matadors have seen production out of every position on the field this season. In the team's matches to this point, 11 different players have scored a goal and 16 total Matadors have recorded at least one point. The team has put up 121 points thus far to lead the Big West Conference in that category. Each of the four goals against the Portland Pilots in the season-opening 4-0 win had an assist by a different player. Among the point scorers for Northridge are six forwards, five midfielders and five defenders led by forward Sagi Lev-Ari with 26. Edwin Rivas (20), Beto Velasquez (17), Jose Luis Garcia (4), Brian Behrad (7), Joe Franco (3), David Turcios (8), Chris Smith (8), Carlos Gonzalez (3), Rene Anguiano (4), and Armando Gutierrez (2) have scored goals while Carlos Benavides (10), Yuval Barak (5), Christian Gonzalez Diaz (2), Trevor Morley (1) and Yarden Azulay (1) have earned assists. Lev-Ari has scored a goal in 10 matches this year and leads the team with 13 goals.

Poll Position
The Matadors are back in the national rankings for the first time since the 2009 season. After splitting its two matches last week, Northridge is currently ranked 30th by College Soccer News and 32nd by Top Drawer Soccer. The Matadors are receiving votes in polls by Soccer Times and the NSCAA, the official poll recognized by the NCAA. In the NSCAA's regional rankings, the Matadors are currently fourth in the Far West, the highest of any Big West team this week. CSUN is ranked 39th in the RPI. Polls are current as of November 5.

You Can't Score if You Don't Shoot
After the Semifinal round of the Big West Tournament, the Matadors lead the Big West in shots taken (328) and goals scored (39). CSUN is also the leader in points (121) and is second in goals per game (1.95). Over Northridge's two matches against Army and Temple, the team took a combined 49 shots and scored seven goals. Their opposition took just 15 shots and scored once. The next match, Northridge erupted for five more goals at San Diego (9/20). Every Matador that has played in the field this season has recorded a shot and just under 40 percent of the shots taken have been on goal. At the same time, opponents have recorded 228 total shots and 77 shots on goal, scoring 18 times.

Getting the Job Done
Heading into the Big West Final on Saturday, the Matadors are looking to build on exciting finishes they have put up thus far. Following a 4-0 result against Portland, Northridge found itself down a goal early in the second half against American. It was then that the Matadors rattled off two goals in a span of three minutes to take the lead for good and pick up their second win of the year. Northridge has also been impressive offensively in a pair of 5-0 victories at home against Army (9/14) and at San Diego (9/20). Prior to this season, the Matadors hadn't scored five goals in a match and hadn't won by a five-goal margin since winning 6-1 over Detroit in the team's home opener on August 31, 2007. On October 7, the Matadors went in to Santa Barbara and came away with a 1-0 win over then-No. 4 UC Santa Barbara. It was the first win for CSUN at Harder Stadium since the 1999 season. On October 13, Northridge was able to score a golden goal in the 104th minute against UC Riverside to record the program's first home overtime win since 2009.

Bring the Noise
Have a drum, cowbell, or other noisemaker lying around at home? Now is the time to bring it out and explore the space of Matador Soccer Field! In 2011, the Big West Conference office announced that all noisemakers, with the exceptions of airhorns and whistles, will be allowed at all conference matches and all home venues. Please note that noisemakers have been approved for use at men's and women's soccer matches only and will be confiscated in the Matadome or at any other Northridge Athletics venue. Noisemakers are only permitted at Big West matches and will not be allowed inside the venue during any potential NCAA Tournament match.

Ticket Information
With the Big West Conference Tournament Final at UC Davis on Saturday, ticket prices have been updated. As the match is part of the postseason and a conference-run event, all fans in attendance will need a ticket for admission, including students. For the Big West Tournament Final on November 10, general admission tickets will be $10 while all student tickets are $5 at Aggie Soccer Field in Davis, Calif.

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