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Ass'ad Gets Kick From Soccer Team

November 05, 1998

Marwan Ass'ad, men's soccer coach at Cal State Northridge and a frequent Pollyanna, for once has a reason to smile about his team's play.

The Matadors' bare-bones program, 11-21-3 in 1996-97 and briefly eliminated by school administrators in the summer of 1997, has risen from the ashes.

If Northridge wins its last two games, it would have victories in 12 of 13 games. The Matadors have surrendered eight goals in 10 games.

Northridge (10-5) will conclude the regular season by hosting UC San Diego on Saturday and playing at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Nov. 15. Although the Matadors could receive an at-large berth in the 32-team NCAA Division I playoffs, Ass'ad acknowledges it's a remote possibility.

"I told the team if we don't go, it's preparation for next year," said Ass'ad, who will have about a dozen juniors and seniors on his 1999 team. "If nothing else, the community here will take notice of what we're doing."

If not for losing their first four games, the Matadors would be serious playoff contenders. It doesn't help that Northridge, an independent, was erased from Mountain Pacific Sports Federation schedules this season after the program was briefly dropped 16 months ago.

The MPSF is one of three West Coast conferences whose champion receives an automatic playoff berth. Qualifying as an independent is difficult.

Crucial to Northridge's success are junior forwards Federico Arroyo, who has nine goals and 13 assists, and Mike Preis, who has 13 goals and seven assists.

Ass'ad credits the improved play of midfielders William Diaz and Trevor Schmidt and better team defense.

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The Northridge women entered their regular-season soccer finale at Northern Arizona last Friday needing at least a tie to qualify for the four-team Big Sky Conference tournament. The Matadors lost, 2-1, surrendering the winning goal with 10 minutes to play in less-than-ideal conditions.

"We played the second half in a hail storm," Coach Brian Wiesner said. "The players were shielding their eyes as they ran. We hit three posts and the ball didn't go in. They hit one post and it went in. Maybe it wasn't meant to be."

Wiesner said Michelle French, a freshman forward, missed a breakaway and Riya Gough, a sophomore midfielder, misfired on a header with the Lumberjack net unguarded.

Nonetheless, he was pleased with his team's play.

"We played great," Wiesner said. "We followed the game plan to perfection. We just didn't get the goals."

Northridge finished 6-13, 3-4 in conference play.

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Reaction has been mixed among coaches and athletes at Northridge concerning the arrest last week of women's basketball coach Michael Abraham on federal drug charges.

Among those taking a softer stance is running back Jaumal Bradley, and for good reason.

Bradley spent seven years at the California Youth Authority in Chino for a gang-related incident, and was released in 1996. He has experienced a profound turnaround.

"People make choices and have to be held accountable," Bradley said. "But you shouldn't be judgmental. One thing I learned [at CYA] is you believe half of what you see and none of what you hear."

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Sometimes news travels more slowly than it should.

Ventura College disbanded its men's basketball team last season because of violations and won't field a team again until the 1999-2000 season.

Nevertheless, in a preseason top 25 released by Preview Sports College Basketball magazine, Ventura is ranked No. 23 and is the only team from California in the rankings.

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Staff writers Fernando Dominguez, Steve Henson and Tris Wykes contributed to this notes column.

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