Aug. 30, 2010
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
There is a feeling of unbridled optimism that can be felt in the offices of the Matador men's soccer coaching staff, and for good reason. After narrowly missing out on a playoff spot in 2008, and earning the final slot available for the Big West Men's Soccer Postseason Tournament in 2009, head coach Terry Davila and his team have been working non-stop to help Cal State Northridge become one of the elite Division-I men's soccer teams in the nation.
One result of their efforts that will be the easiest to recognize are the newly-added lighting fixtures to Matador Soccer Field. The 2001 season was the last time Davila's team competed under the lights, an opportunity both he and his team are excited to take full advantage of starting with their exhibition game against San Diego State on August 27.
"Everyone in the program is excited about this project," explained Davila. "Now our program has the ability to evolve to the next level, further cultivate relationships with local talent, and truly become a team that the entire Valley can embrace and call their own."
Finishing the 2008 season with an overall record of 10-8-2, and conference mark of 5-4-1, Davila was pleased with the progress his team made last season.
"All we needed was one more point to rech the playoffs in 2008," stated Davila. "To make the playoffs last year was a great feeling because all of my guys worked hard to take that next step as a program."
As positive as last year's fourth place finish was to the team and its fans, everyone associated with the team knows that even greater levels of success can be earned by the 2010 squad.
Even though 12 members of last year's squad graduated and are no longer on the roster, there is still enough experience and veteran leadership to help CSUN ascend the conference standings this year and ultimately reclaim a conference title.
The lone senior on roster, midfielder Chris Leiva (Burbank, Calif./Vanguard) is not the only student-athlete returning to the pitch after sitting out last season. Junior defender Jeremy Hohn (Vacaville, Calif./Vacaville HS), junior midfielder/forward Nicholas Hamilton (Coronado, Calif./Coronado HS), and junior forward Camilo Rojas (Canoga Park, Calif./Canoga Park HS), have been ready and waiting to compete after redshirting the 2009 campaign.
"All the guys who redshirted showed how mature they are as soccer players. They were all going to play a solid number of minutes last year, but they all felt it would be better for the team to redshirt, further develop their skills, and lead the way for this year's group. Those guys are true leaders."
BETWEEN THE PIPES
From 2005-08, the Matadors felt a sense of certainty at the goalkeeping position, as two-time Goalkeeper of the Year winner Kevin Guppy provided stifling defense in front of the net. However 2008 brought an end to his remarkable collegiate career, as Guppy left Cal State Northridge with the most wins in school history (37), the highest shutout total (27.5) and the second most saves (290) setting his place as one of the best goalkeepers in Northridge history.
Not only was Michael Abalos (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic HS) facing the pressures attached as the first goalkeeper to occupy the next in the post-Guppy era, the incoming freshman also had to successfully manage his first semester of classes at CSUN, the coursework attached to his busy academic schedule, and manage the everyday challenges all freshmen had to deal with during their respective transition from high school to a college campus.
Only days away from beginning his second season as the Matadors' starting goalkeeper, Abalos not only conquered all the challenges faced in his inaugural season on the team, but made a name for himself with his performance between the pipes in `09.
Earning a spot in the CSUN record books with his seven wins, 1.17 goals against average, and five shutouts, Abalos ended his freshman season earning All-Big West Conference Honorable Mention recognition.
As has been the case for years, CSUN will be deep at the goalkeeper position as transfers Joe Scachetti (Torrance, Calif./UCLA) and Manabu Kaji (Citrus College/Kajoshima, Japan) provide Davila with the luxury of stellar goalkeeping from the first to the final game of the season.
LAST LINE OF DEFENSE
With seven shutouts last season, the Matadors fielded one of the strongest defensive units in the Big West, which Davila believes will continue heading into the fall.
In addition to the tenacious play of Hohn, Joe Franco (Monrovia, Calif./St. Francis HS), Jake Troy (Salt Lake City, Utah/Judge Memorial Catholic HS), and Yuval Barak (Tel Aviv, Israel/Aliance HS) also return for another shot at a Big West title in 2010. One of only four players to start and compete in every game last season, Franco made a deep impression on opposing coaches with his speed and agility, and even exhibited a bit of his goal scoring potential last season with his efforts at UC Riverside.
Most often one of the first individuals off the bench, earning significant minutes as a reserve last season, Troy and Barak have prepared themselves accordingly this summer in an effort to handle the increased amount of minutes each will see in their second season on the roster.
After transferring from UNLV during the summer, Taylor Bowlin (Pleasant View, Utah/UNLV) will look to earn a solid amount of minutes this season. As is the case with teammate Chris Smith (Palmdale, Calif./Quartz Hill HS) who redshirted the 2009 season, both look to utilize their season's worth of experience in an effort to earn a solid amount of playing time in 2010.
Newcomers Tanner Snedigar (Quartz Hill, Calif./Quartz Hill HS), Hayden Nicholson (Simi Valley, Calif./Royal HS), Shawin Berenji (Sun Valley, Calif./Village Christian HS), Vitor Nogueira (Sao Paolo, Brazil/Beverly Hills HS), and Angel Sanchez (Northridge, Calif./Kennedy HS) have looked impressive during the team's preseason practices and workouts, giving Davila an added level of versatility and flexibility in his backline all season long.
OWNING THE (MID)FIELD
The Matador faithful will see a few familiar faces in midfield this season, student-athletes who are used to stepping up in key situations and making the intelligent decisions needed to succeed at their position.
In addition to Hamilton, Rafael Garcia (Canoga Park, Calif./Canoga Park HS) will return to the pitch once again after completing his successful return from an injury last season. Finishing the `09 season with one assist, Garcia's aggressive style was in full form last season as he would terrorize opponents from sideline to sideline, firing 28 shots in his return to competition.
Another face Big West foes will surely recognize is All-Big West Honorable Mention recipient Rene Anguiano (Los Angeles, Calif./Los Angeles HS). In his inaugural season at CSUN, Anguiano competed in all but one game, started on 16 occasions, and finished with the second highest amount of assists on the team, trailing only four time, All-Big West honoree Sunghyun Kim in that category.
Rounding out the returning corps of midfielders for Northridge are Daniel Yoon (Northridge, Calif./Granada Hills HS) and Luis Gil (Fillmore, Calif./Fillmore HS). Offering Davila an added level of flexibility to his starting line-up, Yoon is skilled, physical, and agile enough to pose a threat as both a midfielder and a forward, and will be utilized accordingly throughout the season.
Developing into a Division-I soccer player before everyone's eyes, Gil is deceptively fast for someone of his size. With the lessons learned from his first full season now in his arsenal, Gil is ready to continue his development towards becoming another All-Big West caliber midfielder in his second season under Davila's tutelage.
An array of emerging talents grace the Matador roster; a group of individuals consisting of Alberto Rosas (Van Nuys, Calif./Birmingham HS), Thomas Ramos (Phoenix, Ariz./Pinnacle HS), Carlos Benavides (Woodland Hills, Calif./El Camino Real HS), Majeed Shahin (Los Angeles, Calif./Los Angeles Lutheran HS), and Sam Perez (Parker, Colo./Chaparral HS) that have been ready to compete from day one and possess the willingness to do anything Davila asks of them on the pitch to help the team win. As talented as this group is, do not be surprised to see any these student-athletes take on a dual role either up front, or on defense due to the level of talent each possess.
FIRING AT WILL
If there is one part of the roster that offers Davila the greatest level of flexibility, it is his front-line, as his contingent of forwards all possess the aggressive mentality, speed, and footwork to light up the scoreboard for CSUN this season.
In addition to Yoon and Gil, Gustavo Villalobos (Van Nuys, Calif./Birmingham HS) is another individual who is talented enough to be slotted as a midfielder or forward and succeed at both positions.
Mattias Bonvehi (Lake Balboa, Calif./El Camino Real HS) will see an increased amount of minutes in 2010; last season the junior came off the bench to compete in nine games, took a total of nine shots, and earned the most assists of any Matador in one game with his three assist performance in front of the Matador faithful at home against UC Riverside last year.
But it is the return of Rojas, the team's leading scorer in 2008 that will garner the most attention from various opponents. After a one-year hiatus, the All-Big West Second Team honoree is hungry to prove to everyone that the successes earned during his sophomore season can be repeated, if not improved upon this year as the junior is ready to lead CSUN's front-line to what he hopes is the team's first Big West title since 2005.
Also looking to evolve into goal-scoring threats of their own are freshmen Edwin Rivas (Los Angeles, Calif./Santee Educational Complex), Sam Ball (Westlake Village, Calif./Westlake Village HS), Brian Behrad (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft HS), and Michael Pattison (Granada Hills, Calif./Granada Hills HS).
CSUN'S PLAN OF ATTACK
Matches against last year's College Cup finalist, a cross-town rival, and nighttime competition for the first time at Matador Field highlight one of the most competitive schedules ever assembled during head coach Terry Davila's eleven-year tenure at Cal State Northridge.
Known for playing anyone, anytime, anywhere, Davila's 2010 schedule fully reflects this sentiment as the Matadors will battle six teams - San Diego, Akron, San Francisco, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Irvine - who were ranked in the top-25 nationally during the 2009 season.
Eleven of CSUN's 19 games this season will take place on the road, with the remaining eight games scheduled to take place at the newly renovated Matador Field. Kick-off for all but one home game will take place at 7:00 p.m., as CSUN's contest against Air Force will be the only match-up that takes place during daytime hours. Kick-off for that specific game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.
Teams traveling to the Valley this year include San Diego State (exhibition game) on Aug. 27, San Diego on Sept. 1, Air Force on Sept. 26, UC Davis on Oct. 9, Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 13, UC Irvine on Oct. 20, cross-town rival UCLA on Oct. 27, UC Riverside on Oct. 30, and Cal Poly on Nov. 6.
This will be the second consecutive season that CSUN begins their slate of games against the Toreros, as the men in red were defeated in their season-opening game in San Diego last year.
Not only will the Matadors look to avenge last season's loss in their 2010 season-opener, but the team will be competing in their first regular season game at night since moving from North Campus Stadium prior to the 2002 season.
A matinee game on the road against Loyola Marymount (Sept. 5, 4:00 p.m.) will not only serve the Matadors' first road game of the season, but also commence a six-game road trip that includes games against Washington (Sept. 10, 4:30 p.m.) and San Jose State (Sept. 12, 11:30 a.m.) as part of the Cal State Fullerton Tournament, two games in another tournament held in Akron, Ohio against tournament host University of Akron (Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT) and Illinois-Chicago (Sept. 19, 12:00 p.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT), before concluding with one game against the University of San Francisco (Sept. 24, 7 p.m.)
Conference road games include trips to Cal State Fullerton (Oct. 2, 7:00 p.m.), Cal Poly (Oct. 6, 7:00 p.m.), UC Davis (Oct. 16, 7:00 p.m.), UC Santa Barbara in their only game of the season against the Gauchos (Oct. 23, 7:00 p.m.), and UC Irvine (Nov. 3, 7:00 p.m.).
Entering his twelfth season as head coach, Davila is as enthusiastic as ever about the upcoming season and his team's prospects of earning a return trip to the postseason and winning a Big West championship.
With so many members of the team having utilized their redshirt season, this year's team not only possesses the maturity and experience of a roster laden with seniors, but also possess the eligibility needed to succeed as a collective group for upcoming seasons as well.
States Davila, "I like the progress this team has made in recent years, and look forward to continuing our progression towards becoming one of the top programs in Division-I soccer."