November 15, 2012

No. 25 CSUN Drops 2-1 Heartbreaker to San Diego in NCAA Tournament First Round

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

On a rain-soaked pitch in the NCAA Tournament First Round, the No. 25 Cal State Northridge Matadors (15-7) lost a double-overtime heartbreaker 2-1 to the San Diego Toreros (12-8) on Thursday night at Matador Soccer Field. After scoring the match's first goal, Northridge conceded the equalizer in the 89th minute and the winner in double overtime to see its majestic season come to a close.

As the rain started to fall at Matador Soccer Field, the teams played a conservative first half. Each team had a shot on goal in the first 45 minutes but goalkeepers Michael Abalos for CSUN and Drew Ilijevski for San Diego made saves to eliminate the threat.

Northridge came closest to scoring in the 30th minute when sophomore striker Sagi Lev-Ari took a left-footed shot that struck the left post and stayed out. At the halftime break, San Diego led in shots (9-3) and corners (4-0).

Rene Anguiano nearly put the Matadors ahead in the 49th minute but his rising shot missed wide of the left post.

A dangerous sequence for the Toreros almost resulted in a goal in the 53rd minute when three shots were taken in quick succession. The first rolled wide to the right but was kept in by Sergio Lopez, whose shot was saved by Abalos near the right post. The follow-up attempt by Patrick Wallen went to the right of the goal and out of play.

Lev-Ari made the breakthrough, however, in teh 73rd minute with some help from Abalos. Abalos collect a San Diego cross and sent a long punt upfield that took a bounce 30 yards from goal. Ilijevski and a defender both went toward the ball but collided, leaving Lev-Ari with a clear path to the open net.

Lev-Ari easily put home the shot for his 15th goal of the season, a figure that ties for ninth in school history for a single season. Abalos was credited with his first career assist on the play.

With time winding down the Toreros were able to level the score. Off of a free kick in the 89th minute, Dan Delgado sent a curling ball into the area that went untouched and into the left side netting for his ninth goal of the year.

Delgado was then instrumental in setting up the winner, finding Connor Brandt in the box on the left side in teh 104th minute. Brandt then slid a shot through a group of defenders on the wet surface and into the net.

With the loss, the Matadors finish the season with a 15-7 record, matching a school best for single-season victories in the program's Division I history. The Matadors finished the regular season as the champions of the Big West Conference's South Division and won back-to-back shutouts to claim their first Big West Tournament title last week.

Abalos' 14 wins in 2012 tie for third-most in a single season in school history. He leaves Northridge as one of the all-time Matador greats in goal, ranking among the leaders in matches played, wins, shutouts, and goals against average. At the end of the season Abalos was named the Big West Goalkeeper of the Year.

With the victory, the Toreros advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. San Diego will face UCLA on Sunday at 5 p.m. PT at Drake Stadium in Los Angeles.