TAMPA, Fla. — The Cal State Northridge soccer team is heading west to California empty handed this morning because its normally high-powered offense went south for the winter Sunday night in the Division II championship game against Southern Connecticut State.
CSUN, which came into the Final Four ranked No. 1 in the nation, saw its title drive stall in a 2-0 loss before a crowd of 332 at Pepin/Rood Stadium.
Freshman midfielder John DeBrito scored both goals for sixth-ranked Southern Connecticut, which won its first national championship by handing CSUN its only shutout of the season.
"They played a great game and one of the keys was keeping us from getting the ball to our forwards," said CSUN coach Marwan Ass'ad, whose team finished 19-2-1. "I was waiting for us to get going, but they never really gave us a chance to get into our game."
Southern Connecticut controlled the game by shutting down CSUN forward Joey Kirk, who had 30 goals this season. Kirk, a senior who is also a member of the U.S. National Team, was marked effectively by fullback Dave Anderson.
Meanwhile, Southern Connecticut (17-1-3) had little trouble running its own offense.
DeBrito, who had scored just one goal all season, put the Owls ahead 14 minutes into the game on an assist from midfielder Bill Galka, who centered a pass from about 30 yards away from the goal. DeBrito received the ball in the air about five yards in front of the net and kicked it in on a one-touch past CSUN goalie Willie Lopez to give the Owls a 1-0 halftime lead.
CSUN's best opportunity to draw even came with 13:45 left in the game when the Matadors were awarded a penalty kick after Southern Connecticut midfielder Henry George tackled Kirk on a rare breakaway.
With Kirk apparently shaken up on the play, Ass'ad selected fullback Steve Lazarus to go one-on-one with Southern Connecticut goalie Mike Cashman, who had allowed just seven goals all season.
Lazarus, a junior, fired to the left of Cashman, who made a diving stop to preserve the shutout.
"It was just an educated guess," said Cashman, a sophomore who recorded his 13th shutout. "When I saw him make that extra move I just threw my body out there as far to the post as I could. Luckily, he didn't put it very far to my left because I don't think I would have had it."
Said Lazarus: "I rushed it. It was a terrible shot."
A little less than a minute later, DeBrito scored from 22 yards out on an assist from Antony Vaughn to clinch the title.