Cal State Northridge finally fell to earth Wednesday night after riding a plane that had the Matadors unbeaten in conference play and ranked fourth in the nation.
As soccer goes, Chapman College's 1-0 upset over CSUN was less than lackluster but may prove to be the spark that sets the Matadors' fire.
The win moves the Runnin' Panthers into a two-way tie for first place with Northridge. Each team has a 4-1 conference record.
CSUN Coach Marwan Ass'ad feels that the loss is the motivational factor that the team needs but hasn't had during California Collegiate Athletic Assn. play.
"I believe you only get better when you pay for your mistakes," Ass'ad said. "You also pay when you don't take what the other team gives you."
What Chapman gave CSUN was endless scoring opportunities, which the Matadors couldn't convert into goals. Indeed, CSUN outshot the Panthers, 23-13. But a team need only score once, as Chapman's Miguel Eli Tapia did in the middle of the second half, before it can abandon its offensive strategy and concentrate on protecting its lead.
"After we scored, we didn't have to concern ourselves with trying to score again," Chapman Coach Eunice Bobert said. "If I could have, I would have put 11 guys in the net."
He didn't have to. CSUN had nine shots on goal in the last six minutes, each striking a Chapman defender.
Chapman goalkeeper Craig Elliot recorded a dozen saves, crease work that had the Matadors visibly frustrated through much of the second half. Still, it was CSUN's inability to score when the ball was in scoring position that cost the defending CCAA champions the game.
"All our conference games have been close because we haven't scored on our chances in the first half," Ass'ad said. "We're the kind of team that has to finish the game early. We have to get points early and then hold the other team off but we didn't do that.
"The players have to realize that maybe the coach is right. They have to go in there and say to themselves, 'The next time I get a chance, I'm going to put it in the net. I'm not going to wait for a chance, I'm going to make my own.' That's what they've got to do."
CSUN may slip in the NCAA Division II rankings because of the loss but Ass'ad said his team had better worry about making the playoffs and not the polls. On the other hand, CSUN is getting closer to the end of a five-game road trip, facing Cal Poly Pomona this weekend and Dominguez Hills next week.