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THE COLLEGES : Notes : Modified Midfield Moves CSUN Past .500

The Northridge soccer team passed the .500 mark this season when the Matadors recorded their third consecutive shutout, a 1-0 win Wednesday over Division I Cal State Los Angeles.

The victory followed a 2-0 shutout against Cal State Sacramento, which had been ranked third in Division II, and last Saturday’s 1-0 victory over The Master’s.

Northridge (6-4 after Friday’s 3-1 nonconference win over Westmont) has benefited recently from a change in philosophy. In the past, the Matadors often pushed the ball into the attacking zone from the back row.

Last week, however, Northridge moved senior Steve Lazarus from forward to midfield and began moving the ball through the midfielders to the front line.

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Northridge Coach Marwan Ass’ad credits assistant Andreas Mparmperis (pronounced BAR-ber-is), who joined the Matador staff this season after spending three years as coach at Saugus High.

“Andreas has helped with team tactics,” Ass’ad said “Before, we weren’t making the group tactics work. Andreas is saving me three, four or five years of work.”

Slithering around: The Occidental soccer field continues to draw the attention of local wildlife.

As if the neighborhood dogs weren’t enough, the players found three garter snakes during practices last week.

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“All of us recoil at the sight of large insects and snakes,” goalkeeper Chris Owen said.

Teammates nominated Owen to dispose of the reptiles because he wears gloves for his position.

“I just grab them, turn my head toward the fence, and fling them over,” Owen said.

He’s a hit: Jim Vatcher, a former CSUN outfielder, batted .302 in leading the Spartanburg (S.C.) Phillies to the championship of the Class-A South Atlantic League. Vatcher, who was drafted in the 20th round by Philadelphia in 1987, went 5 for 14, including a game-winning home run in the best-of-five championship series against Charleston (S.C.).

Vatcher finished second behind Moises Alou (.316) of Augusta

(Ga.) for the batting title and was named to the league all-star team. He also had 12 home runs, 72 runs batted in and 26 stolen bases.

Holiday homecoming: Northridge soccer fans, who consistently turn out in large numbers for Matador home games at North Campus Stadium, will have a chance to see former Northridge players Thor Lee and Joey Kirk square off for the first time as members of the Major Indoor Soccer League when the L. A. Lazers play host to Wichita at the Forum on Dec. 26.

Lee plays for the Lazers and Kirk for Wichita.

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Forgettable quote: Quarterback Ronnie Lopez, All-City at Franklin High last season, commenting last spring on his value as a college prospect for Pierce College:

“All these schools are telling me they ain’t established, they ain’t established. Well, I’ll establish them.”

So far at Pierce, Lopez has completed 26 of 70 passes for 371 yards and has had 5 passes intercepted--one less than in his entire senior season at Franklin.

Fired up in football: In Northridge’s only game against a Division I-AA team last season, the Matadors were routed by Boise State, 30-0.

But if CSUN players were intimidated before last week’s game at Idaho State, it wasn’t noticeable.

“It was the first time this team has been so excited,” Coach Bob Burt said. “They were wired. We had a tough time keeping them in the locker room--before the game and at the half.”

In mourning: Oscar Williams, a senior defensive back for Cal Lutheran, is not expected to play today against UC Santa Barbara. He is in New York City after the fatal shooting of his brother last week, according to Coach Bob Shoup.

Sam Farmer and staff writers Gary Klein, Mike Hiserman and Ralph Nichols contributed to this notebook.

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