CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK : Titan Goalie Guarantees Shutouts, if Necessary

Jay Nettekoven didn't exactly point a bat toward the center-field bleachers, but he made his point just the same.

Cal State Fullerton needs to win its final two soccer games--the second against sixth-ranked Fresno State--to feel confident of securing a berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament. Nettekoven is the Titans' goalkeeper.

"If we score, we'll win," Nettekoven said. "I feel that strongly."

What he's saying is shutout, guaranteed.

Fullerton would prefer it didn't come to that, but Nettekoven says he is prepared to do what is necessary.

"I'm not working for shutouts (in the statistics), I'm working to win," he said. "But my job is to keep zeroes on the board."

Some of Nettekoven's talk may be goalkeeper's bravado. But for the past two games, he has backed it up.

The Titans traveled to Las Vegas Friday to play Nevada Las Vegas, a team they hadn't beaten on the road since 1980.

Fullerton scored twice, and Nettekoven had seven saves. The result was a 2-0 Titan victory.

Fullerton played at UC Irvine Sunday, and scored only one goal. But Nettekoven had a four-save shutout, and the Titans won again.

That's two consecutive shutouts. Nettekoven would like to make it four.

The Titans, 11-6-1 overall and in second place in the Big West Conference with a 5-2-1 record, play at San Jose State Friday and at Fresno State Sunday.

The Bulldogs are 14-2 overall, 8-0 in the Big West. Fresno State defeated Fullerton, 2-1, in the teams' first meeting this season.

A victory over Fresno State would give Fullerton a good shot at making the NCAA tournament.

A loss?

"Then our name would be tossed around, like in the lottery," Nettekoven said.

Nettekoven, a junior, is facing a different sort of challenge this year than he did last season, when a weak Titan defense forced him to make 120 saves, more than six a game.

This season, with a stronger defense, Nettekoven has made 81 saves, with two games remaining.

But early in the season, Nettekoven says he struggled.

"I wasn't coming up with the saves that had to be made," he said. "Last year I was getting shellshocked. Now it's practically stagnant. Now I'm used to the idea."

Even though his record last season was 6-11-2, Nettekoven was recognized for his work in goal, earning second-team Big West honors.

This season, his goals-against average has dropped from 1.6 to 1.2. But that isn't low enough to suit Nettekoven.

"To get recognition, you need to be below a 1.0," he said. "It's like a pitcher's earned-run average. That's the stat people look at."

And just think what two more shutouts would do for that stat.

Tap on the Wrist: Gene Murphy, Fullerton football coach, said he received a private reprimand from Big West Conference Commissioner Jim Haney after complaining publicly about the officials' calls in the Titans' 33-19 loss to Fresno State Oct. 21.

Coaches are not allowed to publicly criticize conference officials or officials of other member schools, according to conference by-laws.

Haney said the situation "was addressed."

As for the disputed calls, a conference observer reviewed films of the game and reported to Jack O'Cain, supervisor of football officials.

O'Cain's response to the three calls that Murphy disputed on Fresno's victory-clinching fourth-quarter drive:

Roughing the Kicker: Fullerton's Terry Tramble was called for roughing the punter, giving the Bulldogs 15 yards and an automatic first down. Fullerton coaches contend that contact wasn't blatant, and that the penalty, if any was called, should have been five yards for running into the kicker.

"A judgment call," O'Cain said. "I won't comment on whether that should have been five yards or 15."

The Fumble: After a Fresno State fumble, the referee quickly and decisively signaled Fullerton's ball, but the call was reversed.

"On the fumble, we made a mistake in signaling the wrong decision," O'Cain said. "The call when finished was probably correct."

O'Cain said, as did Fresno State Coach Jim Sweeney, that a Fullerton player sat on the ball, which should not have been ruled a recovery. A Fresno State player later pulled the ball away, he said.

The Personal Foul: Looking at the film, a personal foul call against Terry Tramble seemed unwarranted. But O'Cain said the call was for an incident after the play ended that was not on the film. O'Cain said an official reported that the penalty was for "a striking blow to the helmet," and that the official did not correctly report the reason for the penalty to Murphy.

After a week off, the football team plays New Mexico State at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Santa Ana Stadium.

"Always scary," Murphy said.

Fullerton remains the only Big West team to have lost to New Mexico State, losing to the Aggies in 1986.

New Mexico State is winless this season after eight games.

Fullerton is trying to win its final three games, which would give the Titans a 6-4-1 record, their first winning season since 1985.

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