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Matadors, Lee Are Growing Up


A season of firsts for Allison Lee and the Cal State Northridge women's soccer team has observers wondering what the Matadors will do for an encore.

Except Lee.

Northridge, coming off its best season in the program's five-year history, is tabbed to finish second in the Big Sky Conference preseason poll. Lee, entering her second season as coach, sees things differently.

"I would have picked us to finish first," Lee said. "It doesn't surprise me that they picked us second. We had a strong team last year and we narrowly lost to Montana in the semifinals. It easily could have been us, and coaches recognize that."

The Matadors' unprecedented success could hardly have been more pleasing, considering their 20-53-4 record in four seasons. Lee, a former Northridge assistant, was promoted a few months before the season and guided the Matadors to their first winning season and first playoff appearance.

Northridge finished 10-8-1 and tied for third in the Big Sky Conference at 4-3 and dropped a 1-0 decision to champion Montana in the conference tournament.

Lee, 27, former coach at Bonita and Corona highs and the career scoring leader at Cal Poly Pomona, quickly has established herself as a college coach. Lacking confidence a year ago, she seemingly has slipped comfortably into the role of leader.

During a media session, Lee interrupted three players, reminding them that practice had begun.

"She's a lot more confident being coach than she was last year," forward Erin Broadwell said. "That's because of the success she's had."

Lee acknowledged the adjustment was difficult at times. As a four-year assistant to former coach Brian Weisner, Lee was popular among players, viewed by some as more big sister than coach.

Youthful in appearance, Lee easily could be mistaken for a player.

"The hardest thing to overcome is that now they see me in a different role," Lee said. "To be a little more forceful was rocky at first."

Lee capitalized on her first full season of recruiting, signing several freshmen from the region, including defender Cindy Mallett of Simi Valley High and midfielder Shannon DeVos of Chatsworth.

"We have more speed, more size and a little bit more knowledgeable players," Lee said. "The girls we've had in the past, we've had to teach them a lot more than we should have. I think the girls we have now are a little more soccer savvy. They're getting better younger these days, which is nice."

Broadwell, an All-Big Sky forward who led Northridge with eight goals, heads a list of several players with considerable experience.

"I think we've gained a lot," Broadwell said. "And we've gained a lot of experience."

Northridge, slated to join the Big West Conference in 2001, appears poised to make a successful transition.

"We've played a lot of Big West teams and we've beaten them," Lee said. "We're not going to walk in and expect it to be handed to us. But we could definitely come in and have a good look at winning a championship, that's for sure."

A look at the region's other programs:

Cal Lutheran

The Regals, with 16 returning players, should continue to dominate the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Cal Lutheran has won nine consecutive conference titles while compiling a 105-2-1 conference record.

Cal Lutheran was 15-6-1 overall and 11-1 in SCIAC play last season. Forward Alix Rucinski led the Regals with 19 goals and 42 points. Forward Alia Khan and midfielder Betsy Fisch each had eight goals. Forward Leilani Green ranked fifth in scoring with four goals.

The Master's

The Mustangs showed improvement last season, despite an 8-12 record and 1-7 mark in NAIA Region II. Jamie Lindvall enters his first season as coach.

Seven starters are among 14 returning players, including forward Sara Riojas, who had 18 goals, and defender Becky McGuire.

Top newcomers include midfielder Stacy Drollinger of Spokane, Wash.

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