NORTHRIDGE, Calif. –
The 24th-ranked CSUN Matadors opened the 2014 season with a pair of practices on Wednesday. Head coach Terry Davila returns for his 16th season at the helm of the program and he and his assistants are preparing for what appears to be another exciting season on the pitch.
"We lost 30 percent of our starters from last year but return 70 percent, which is just about as good as anyone," said Davila. "Our players stepping in this year are older, have been in our program for a while, and have contributed quality minutes for us in the last few years. I don't expect our team to miss a beat this year."
With the start of the regular season a little over two weeks away the Matadors are looking to find the form that propelled them at the start of 2013, when the team opened with seven straight victories for the first time since 1979. CSUN will embark upon the 2014 campaign with four consecutive road matches beginning on August 29th at Denver.
"I'm looking forward to working with the players to lay out the principles of our attack, our defensive mentality and the way we are going to position ourselves and play against certain teams," added Davila. "We play against great competition and it is very competitive in the Big West. To beat extremely disciplined teams like Stanford was in the NCAA Tournament last year, that is our next step as a program."
Earlier Wednesday, the Matadors picked up another preseason Top 25 ranking when CSUN appeared at 18th in a poll by College Sports Madness. In addition, five players appeared on College Sports Madness' 2014 Big West Preseason All-Conference Team.
Davila was selected as the preseason favorite to win the league's Coach of the Year award, while senior Sagi Lev-Ari was tabbed as the conference's Offensive Player of the Year and earned a slot on the All-Big West First Team.
Lev-Ari enters his final season at CSUN after scoring 31 goals and adding six assists in his first two years. In 2013 (16 goals, six assists) he was an All-American, semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, finalist for the College News Net College Boot and the nation's leading scorer going into the NCAA Tournament. He is one of 32 players on the preseason watch list for the Hermann Trophy this year, college soccer's top individual award.
"My goal is to work as hard as I can to have success like in the past two years," said Lev-Ari. "The coaching staff helps me so much and keeps me focused going into every game. I'm glad to have these coaches and teammates and together hopefully we can have a great year."
Joining Lev-Ari on the First Team are forward Edwin Rivas and defender Pol Schonhofer Bartra. Rivas was named to the All-Big West Conference Second Team at the end of last season by the conference's coaches and scored four goals while chipping in four assists in what many consider a "down year." Schonhofer Bartra made 15 starts in 2013 for the Matadors, scored a goal in the season opener and was selected to the All-Big West Freshman Team and TopDrawerSoccer's Freshmen Best XI squad at the end of the season.
"We expect the best out of everybody on the team and we want to extend our season further this year," said Rivas. "We have passion, love for the game, we believe in ourselves and we want it now more than ever."
"Defensively, I think we have a really solid team," said Schonhofer Bartra. "We are looking to improve and give up fewer goals and hopefully that will lead us to the Big West championship and more."
Midfielder David Turcios and defender Trevor Morley were named to the College Sports Madness Second Team and both figure to play prominent roles for CSUN in 2014. A year ago, Turcios played in all 23 matches for the Matadors and had two goals, seven assists and 11 points while Morley had an assist and factored into every CSUN victory. For his efforts, Morley was named to the All-Big West First Team and the NSCAA All-Far West Region Third Team as a sophomore.
Following CSUN's season-opening match at Denver, the Matadors will travel to nearby Air Force for a clash on Sunday, Aug. 31. The following week CSUN will participate in the Holiday Inn Hurricane Classic hosted by the University of Tulsa and take on both UAB and the host Golden Hurricane.
The Matadors will play their 2014 home opener against the New Mexico Lobos on Friday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at Matador Soccer Field. The 5th-ranked Lobos appeared in the College Cup last season in Philadelphia before falling to eventual national champion Notre Dame.