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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | THE COLLEGES

Rolling With the Matadors

November 19, 1998|From Staff Reports

People travel by the busload to Ozark, Mo., to eat at Lambert's restaurant, which bills itself as "Home of the throwed rolls."

Cal State Northridge's football team is among them.

The Matadors crashed the place last Saturday night after defeating Southwest Missouri State in nearby Springfield, probably sending chills down the cook's spine.

Players and coaches ate, drank and apparently didn't drop the rolls "throwed" to them by waiters, who cruise the dining area seeking starch-starved customers.

"The receivers said there were no drops [among them]," said Rob Phenicie, Northridge's offensive coordinator and receivers coach. "I was going to punish them for dropping rolls."

Lambert's decor includes thousands of business cards plastered on the walls and counters. Jeff Kearin and Kevin Singleton, Northridge assistants, didn't waste the opportunity to add theirs, right by the cashier.

"That one [recruit] might walk in there who could make the difference," Kearin said with a laugh.

*

Northridge won 12 of its last 13 games and finished 12-5 but was not included Monday in the 32-team NCAA Division I men's soccer tournament.

Coach Marwan Ass'ad was distraught for several reasons, including the fact the selection committee took an unprecedented eight teams from the Western Region--four from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

Northridge, which until this season was an MPSF member, competed as an independent this fall. The conference dropped the Matadors for 1998 in November 1997 when the status of the Northridge program was in doubt.

The soccer team was one of four Matador men's teams cut by school administrators in June 1997 for budgetary and gender-equity reasons but was reinstated in December of that year.

Ass'ad, who in a conference call with MPSF coaches last November, advised his colleagues to go ahead and book their schedules without his team, feels that he cost his 1998 squad a postseason berth.

"It's my fault," Ass'ad said. "Our results speak for themselves but our strength of schedule hurt us. I told the other coaches to please be patient but they kept complaining. Then after we were reinstated, some of them refused to schedule us."

Ass'ad said the Matadors could have booked road games against traditional national powers to bolster their schedule. But such trips can cost as much as $10,000 and Ass'ad said he was instructed by the Northridge athletic department officials to play games only in California.

The NCAA tournament teams from the West Coast include conference winners San Diego, Fresno State and Washington and at-large teams Santa Clara, Cal State Fullerton, San Jose State, Stanford and UCLA.

Northridge, which lost its first four games, beat San Diego and Santa Clara, and lost to Fullerton and San Jose. The Matadors led Fullerton, 3-1, in the second half before allowing a tying goal with 17 seconds to play and losing in overtime, 5-4.

*

The forecast is promising for the Moorpark football team--weather-wise and bowl-wise--entering the last week of the regular season.

Moorpark, winner of eight in a row, again has positioned itself to play in a postseason bowl game, a privilege the Raiders earned last season before El Nino made a blindside tackle.

A storm forced cancellation of the Western State Bowl between Moorpark and Santa Barbara. But Moorpark (8-1), which has clinched the WSC Southern Division title entering its game Saturday at Valley, won't be left high and dry this year.

An amendment this season to WSC bylaws requires the bowl to be rescheduled in case of inclement weather. But the Raiders, ranked fourth in Southern California, have their sights set higher.

By beating Valley, Moorpark probably will earn an invitation to the more-prestigious Strawberry Bowl at Cerritos College. Teams traditionally seek bowl games outside their conference against unfamiliar opponents.

Bowl organizers will meet Sunday in Sacramento to decide pairings.

At worst, Moorpark will host the Western State Bowl on Dec. 13.

"The only thing I know is, we're going to a bowl game somewhere--unless it rains," Coach Jim Bittner of Moorpark said with a touch of sarcasm. "I just hope our guys aren't sitting back thinking we have this thing made. You never know what can happen with bowl games."

*

Ventura (7-2), thanks to a 31-25 victory last week over Canyons, has all but assured itself of its first bowl-game appearance since 1989.

The Pirates should have no trouble beating Pierce on Saturday, and an 8-2 record--good enough for only third in the WSC Northern Division--will be among the best of bowl contenders.

Ventura, 1-9 last season, is ranked 10th in Southern California.

Canyons (7-3), which has completed its schedule, is practicing this week while clinging to postseason hopes.

The Cougars, playing their first season since 1981, are ranked 14th in Southern California. A likely bid is the McDonalds Charity Bowl at Antelope Valley College.

*

Glendale, ranked No. 1 in the state entering the Southern California men's soccer regional, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-1 first-round victory Tuesday over San Diego.

The Vaqueros (20-1-1), Western State Conference champion, play host to fifth-seeded Santa Barbara (18-2-2) on Friday.

*

Staff writers Fernando Dominguez, Vince Kowalick and Tris Wykes contributed to this notebook.

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