At this time of year, when the playoffs are near, the Cal State Northridge soccer team is typically found tuning up for its annual postseason assault on the rest of Division II.
And while Wednesday night's 3-2 victory over Cal Poly Pomona was no exception, there were several added incentives for the playoff-bound Matadors.
"These guys are the only team in the league--in fact the only team all year--that we haven't scored on," Matador Coach Marwan Ass'ad said. Two weeks ago, CSUN tied the Broncos, 0-0. "And they are the only team in the league that we haven't beaten."
And if retribution wasn't enough, there was also the matter of clinching the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title for the third straight year, or senior forward John Tronson's attempt to shatter the CSUN record for career goals and points scored--or even the team's 12-game unbeaten streak.
"And our seniors want to try to finish league undefeated, too," Ass'ad added.
Two hours later, the Matadors had achieved most of their goals, plus a few others in the win over Pomona before a crowd of 1,500.
"This is our best team ever," Ass'ad said. "We've been playing together for so long. We should finish undefeated, and that would be great."
But Ass'ad's third CCAA championship in four years as coach of the Matadors was not without its anxious moments: The Broncos apparently had a few incentives too.
Pomona's zone defense, which had given the Matadors so much trouble in the first matchup, again gave CSUN fits in the first half. But the Matadors' Joey Kirk finally scored late in the first period, ending a 143-minute drought for CSUN against the Broncos this year.
Kirk gave CSUN a 1-0 lead at the 33:16 mark, scoring after a header by Tronson missed. The half ended with the Matadors ahead, 1-0.
Rodney Batt gave CSUN a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on a 20-yard shot past Bronco goal keeper Tony Rieger. Batt took possession of the ball at midfield and outsprinted several Pomona defenders for the score.
Frank Cubillos scored CSUN's final goal with six minutes left, giving the Matadors a 3-0 lead.
CSUN goal keeper Mike Caputo held the Broncos scoreless until just under five minutes remaining in the game, when Cal Poly's Ken Coffey scored a pair of late goals to make it close.
But the Matadors blanked Johnny Lima, the CCAA's leading scorer, holding him to just one attempt on goal.
The win was Northridge's 27th in 29 home games and the 13 in a row without a loss, tying a CSUN record.
And even though all the objectives on the Matador wish list weren't reached, they still have one more game in which Tronson can break goal and point marks. The Matadors will host Bakersfield in the league finale on Sunday, and the Roadrunners are last in CCAA standings.
"I'd like to see him break it in the playoffs, but I'm sure the fans would like to see him do it here on Sunday," Ass'ad said.
Even if Tronson can't erase the marks Sunday, Ass'ad said he may get another chance at home when the playoffs begin a week from Sunday.
"Since we are one of the top four teams, we will probably get a bye in the first round," Ass'ad said. "But we will probably host our first-round game."
And gracious hosts they aren't.