SAN LUIS OBISPO — The soccer game Wednesday night between Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was played under conditions more befitting the National Hockey League.
The stadium was chilly, the playing surface was slippery and the officiating was loose. The only thing missing was the Zamboni machine to resurface the field during halftime.
In that setting, CSUN literally outskated, outchecked and completely dominated San Luis Obispo to earn an 8-1 victory that virtually assures the Matadors their fourth consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title.
CSUN (15-1-1, 7-0-1), the No. 1-ranked team in Division II, has games left with Dominguez Hills and Chapman. CSUN must only split to clinch the conference.
If that happens, the Matadors would be guaranteed an automatic berth in the playoffs, which begin Nov. 14. San Luis Obispo, which had a 10-game unbeaten streak, may still have a chance at an at-large berth in the playoffs, if the Mustangs win their final game against Chapman.
"We don't think about that now," said CSUN Coach Marwan Ass'ad, whose team tied the Mustangs, 2-2, in their first meeting. "We're flying high and I hope we don't land until Dec. 6."
That is the date when the Division II national championship game will be played. If the Matadors continue to receive the balanced scoring they had against the 11th--ranked Mustangs, it may be a smooth flight.
Midfielder Rodney Batt and forward Juan Florez each scored two goals for the Matadors and Andy Torres, Mike Harvey, Steve Linhart and Joey Kirk each added a goal. Kirk's 25th goal of the season tied the school record set by Jose Perez in 1983.
"They have some outstanding ball-handlers and some very opportunistic people up front," said Mustang Coach Wolfgang Gartner, whose team fell to 10-4-2 overall and 7-1-1 in conference play. "When they go forward, they put the ball in the net."
Batt has been CSUN's hottest player since Ass'ad shifted him from forward to midfield three games ago. The 5-7 senior from Westlake High has scored six goals in the past two games.
Against San Luis Obispo, Batt used his speed and the steady rain to his advantage. He opened the scoring at the 23:38 mark with a shot from 15 yards out that he put into the lower right corner of the net. Batt scored again a little more than 10 minutes later on a 25-yard bullet into the left corner of the goal on an assist from Florez, giving the Matadors a 2-0 lead at the half.
"When the field is slippery like that, it's easier to beat people because you can do it with one move," said Batt, who has 12 goals. "You don't have to do anything fancy because once you beat them on the move, it's too tough to catch someone on the run."
Five minutes into the second half, Florez put CSUN ahead, 3-0, when he headed a shot into the goal on an assist from Kirk.
"We were trying to gain the momentum and come back," Gartner said. "The 3-0 killed us. The 2-0 was OK. We've come back against worse deficits. But against a team like that as good as they are . . . "
Florez put the game out of reach three minutes after his first goal when he took a clearing pass from fullback Steve Lazarus, dribbled 50 yards through three defenders and kicked the ball past Mustang goalie Eric Nelson.
"Lately, we've been a lot more patient," said Florez. "We're executing."
San Luis Obispo scored with a little more than 15 minutes left on a goal by Marcus von Kapff.
"We didn't play better than usual tonight," said Ass'ad, whose team made eight of 13 shots. "Every game, even the ones we lose, we get that many chances. It's just we scored this time."
Said Batt matter-of-factly: "It's a fun game when you're playing your game. We pretty much played our game today."