NORTHRIDGE, Calif. ---
The Cal State Northridge women's soccer team opens its 2013 campaign with a home exhibition contest Saturday against Seattle University at 7 p.m. Coming off a 2012 season marked by the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance and a Big West Championship, the Matadors will face a talented Redhawks squad under the lights at Matador Soccer Field.
Saturday's contest features free admission for all. The teams are likely to play three periods of at least 30 minutes in duration.
A quick recap of the 2012 season had CSUN finishing 11-5-6 overall and 6-1-2 in Big West play. At the Big West Championship, Northridge knocked off Cal Poly and then downed Cal State Fullerton in overtime to capture the league's automatic berth into the field of 64.
The 2013 rendition of the CSUN women's soccer program features a intriguing combination of returning letterwinners and newcomers. Head coach Keith West is back for his eighth season at the helm and is hoping to guide the Matadors to their fifth-straight top-four finish in the Big West. The squad features four seniors: Amanda Smith, Haley Chee, Wendy Warner and Chloe McDaniel.
"We are happy with the focus and drive this team has shown in learning the Northridge way," West said. "The group has displayed a good progression and we're starting to come together as a close unit."
McDaniel enters her third-consecutive season as a team captain and was the 2012 Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Smith has totaled a goal, seven assists and nine points in her previous three seasons at Northridge. Chee and Warner have each recorded one career goal entering their final season.
"Our seniors have been outstanding thus far in camp and are who this team really leans on," West added. "I think our former student-athletes would be proud to see how this group of seniors is leading the team."
Among other returners, junior Brittanie Sakajian is the team's top returning scorer. After missing all of 2011, she returned with vigor by tying for the team lead with five assists and added a goal in 2012. She has five goals, seven assists and 17 points in her career.
Sophomore Taylor Hobson should also be a prominent fixture in midfield for CSUN. In her rookie campaign, she recorded game-winning goals at UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State and earned All-Big West Honorable Mention honors. According to West and the coaching staff, another sophomore, Kendall Moskal, has also been playing at a high level throughout camp.
Several newcomers have also turned heads thus far in training camp. Under the grueling eye of the sun and Coach West, Breanna McCallum, Cynthia Sanchez, Camille Watson and others have flashed the potential to be impactful players in just their first season of Division I soccer.
"We have been very pleased with the drive and determination all our newcomers have shown in making the transition to NCAA Division I soccer," West said. "They want to do well and are willing to learn what it takes to succeed at this level."
Seattle was picked to win the Western Athletic Conference title in 2013 after finishing the 2012 season at 9-9-2 overall. Stephanie Verdoia was chosen as the WAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year after posting 10 goals last season. Julia Besagno is the WAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year after scoring three penalty kick goals and helping the squad post five shutouts last year.
CSUN and Seattle have met once on the pitch as Division I foes, a 3-1 Matador victory in the 2010 season.
The Matadors officially open the 2013 season next week with a pair of road matches at Pac-12 opponents. On Friday, Aug. 23, CSUN heads to Tempe, Ariz., to face Arizona State at 7 p.m. Two days later, the Matadors will square off with No. 5 UCLA on the Pac-12 Network. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.