CSUN and Chapman Will Play for Title
It may as well have been the last game of the season for the Cal State Northridge soccer team.
“Our season is just starting,” said CSUN Coach Marwan Ass’ad, minutes after his team had rallied to break a tie and beat Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 2-1. “We’ll study Chapman now. We’ll practice Thursday and Friday, and then come out smokin”’
CSUN’s showdown against Chapman College on Saturday night for the conference championship marks the beginning of a new schedule--if it wins. A CSUN loss or tie will give Chapman its first conference championship since 1979.
If Northridge wins, it will make its second straight appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
There wasn’t any smoke billowing from North Campus Stadium on Wednesday, but there was enough friction on the field to spark what had been a less than intense CSUN offense in the past few games.
CSUN scored first on a penalty kick by Frank Cubillos, who executed an excellent fake on Mustangs’ goalie Eric Nelson. Cal Poly scored second on a penalty kick by Dave Shivley, who muscled a shot past Phil Heaver.
And the Matadors scored last.
John Tronson, who had been triple-teamed all game, took a feed from Cubillos, and with 16 minutes left in the game, banged it.
“I hit it as hard as I ever have,” he said.
The Matadors looked much like they did earlier in the season, when they posted four straight shutouts, seemingly scored at will and put the fear of losing into opponents.
“Tonight you will see the team of old,” Ass’ad had promised before the game.
While ranked fourth in the nation, Northridge lost to Chapman and Dominguez Hills. After stumbling through that part of the season, the Matadors believe they have back what they thought they had lost.
“We were playing like we had the nationals wrapped up,” said Thor Lee, a CSUN fullback and the mainstay of the Matadors’ defense. “Well, this week, we threw all that out the window. We got back the intensity. We told ourselves, “If we lose, we’re going to go down fighting.”
“We were called No. 1 all season. But we’ve been playing without intensity and winning. We were like little kids who wanted to play and not have to try.”
But the Matadors did come out smoking, and they played with intensity.
The 6-4, 200-pound Tronson, who demands the attention of opposing defenses, played almost the entire game with a yellow card. (Imagine Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing almost an entire NBA game for the Lakers with five fouls.)
“They’re a big team,” Tronson said. “I can’t push them around like all the other little guys in the league. We played a little more physical tonight than we have in a long time. But, we had been saying all week, “This is the game.” Now we get Chapman.”
Chapman (7-1-1) will play CSUN (7-2) Saturday at North Campus Stadium at 7:30.