#BWCWarmUp Fall Preview - CSUN
BigWest.org chatted with CSUN head coaches Keith West (women's soccer), Terry Davila (men's soccer) and Jeff Stork (women's volleyball) to preview the upcoming 2014 season.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
New and Improved: Lookout for the “Rise of the Matador” – as the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced June 2, CSUN has launched a new visual identity, including new primary and secondary logos and a redesign of the Matadome, the home of men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. “The Matadors, like the entire university, are on the rise,” said CSUN president Dianne F. Harrison. The campaign also includes a standardization of references to the University’s athletic teams as the department is now simply, the CSUN Matadors.
Chart Topper: Redshirt senior Brittanie Sakajian ranks among the active career Big West career leaders in five offensive categories heading into the 2014 season, including No. 6 in goals scored (8), tied for No. 4 in assists (8), No. 6 in points (24), No. 5 in shots (84) No. 6 in game-winning goals (3). Said coach Keith West, “We’re expecting this year to be her best year.” The veteran is also on the verge of breaking into the top 10 in the CSUN record book in multiple categories that include goals (two shy), assists (one shy) and points (four shy).
A Good Head On Their Shoulders: Team mentality will be a big factor in the Matadors’ success this season. After finishing 6-12-1 overall and 1-6-1 in conference in 2013, West stressed the team’s mental toughness and the lesson that last season instilled. Said West, “We all had to grow. This is part of the progression. You have to understand that just because you work hard doesn’t mean you’re going to be given anything.”
Defensive State Of Mind: Goalkeeper Cynthia Tafoya ranked fifth in the conference last season with 59 saves to pace her squad. Along with sophomore counterpart Jovani McCaskill, the two will bolster the Matador defense, which has posted a 1.20 goals against average in the last four seasons.
Rebound Time?: In 2011, the Matadors finished 7-10-2 overall and 4-3-1 in conference. Just a season later, CSUN improved with an 11-win campaign and lost just one league match (6-1-2) under coach West. Although CSUN's league winning percentage (.188) last year was its lowest since joining the Big West, perhaps Matador fans can expect a similar pattern and an upswing in victories this season.
QUOTABLES – KEITH WEST
(On team’s philosophy): “Just because you’re playing against someone better than you doesn’t mean you can’t beat them.”
(On CSUN rebranding): “It’s such a breath of fresh air to have people that are so committed to their goal which is to make us one of the best programs in the country and one of the best universities in the country. And when that message is being sent consistently, it gives new meaning to what we’re doing. It invigorates you and it makes you feel like, we’re not alone in this quest for a championship. We’ve got a whole university and a whole department behind us.”
(On three words to describe team): “Exciting. Athletic. Character.”
(On team leadership): “I’d say our group is more lead by committee. In 2012 we had nine seniors and when you have to replace nine seniors, it doesn’t happen overnight. I would say that after adversity hits you, you see leaders start to come out, more out of necessity.”
(On 2013 season): “We had to take some lumps and players had to grow up and players had to learn that to win a game you can’t just have talent. You’ve got to have a little more than that.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
3 Longest win streak in 2013
13 Consecutive matches started by GK Cynthia Tafoya, who recorded a career-high nine saves versus Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 6
24 Active career points total for senior Brittanie Sakajian, most on the team
53 Total number of matches CSUN has played since 2009 that were decided by a one-goal margin. Matadors are 30-23 in those contests
.613 Winning percentage (23-14-3) at Matador Soccer Field since lights were installed in 2010
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Next Step Awaits: Consecutive 15-win seasons would seem enough to whet the palate, but the CSUN men’s soccer program is hungry for more. While the Matadors undoubtedly reside among the nation’s upper echelon, the endings to the last two campaigns have left a lingering bitter taste, with home losses to Loyola Marymount and Stanford in NCAA Tournament play staining an otherwise great story. Everyone – from the administration, to the coaching staff, to the players – is laser focused on steering the program toward new highs. Is a deep run into the postseason in the offing?
Sagi’s Saga: The Matadors have one of the nation’s premier strikers in senior Sagi Lev-Ari. Named an NSCAA First Team All-American in 2013, Lev-Ari decimated opposing defenses to the tune of a league-leading 16 goals and 38 points. CSUN was 8-1 in matches where he scored a goal, and 11-1 when he recorded at least one point. His ability to dominate is a key narrative in CSUN’s two straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Revved Up Rivas: Head coach Terry Davila emphasized that he wants goals coming from a multitude of players, not limited to Lev-Ari’s domain. Balanced scoring or not, Davila has a true top-notch weapon at forward to complement Lev-Ari in senior Edwin Rivas. A three-time all-conference choice, Rivas has amassed 17 goals and eight assists during his career. He is fully recovered from a broken foot sustained in last year’s Big West Tournament championship game and poised for a productive year.
Competition Is A Good Thing: The incumbent at goalkeeper is junior Adam Hobbs. He started 22 games in 2013, posting a 1.05 goals against average with 69 saves and a .750 saves percentage. However, Davila said Hobbs will face competition for his spot, and will be pushed by sophomores Damien Lewis and Kevin Marquez.
Defensive Stalwarts: The collective youth of CSUN’s defensive corps concerned Davila last year, but ultimately that unit played a significant role in the team’s 1.02 GAA. Now Davila expects even better. Trevor Morley, Pol Schonhofer Bartra, Patrick Hickman, Tanner Snedigar and Mynor Giron combined for 91 starts, and provide the Matadors with a solid defensive base. Morley nabbed all-conference first team honors and Schonhofer Bartra made the inaugural All-Freshman Team.
QUOTABLES – TERRY DAVILA
(On what the team learned about the NCAA Tournament): “There’s another level. There’s another level mentally and physically. You’ve got to create your luck, and those things happen by mental and physical toughness. I feel like our university and our soccer program is ready to go to that next level.”
(On Sagi Lev-Ari): “He has to make the other players around him better, so he can become more of an impact player. That’s his No. 1 thing. He has potential to be a very good leader, and a very good player that can make our offense better.”
(On a healthy Edwin Rivas): “Edwin’s impact was really felt when we didn’t have him in the Stanford game (NCAA Tournament Second Round) after he broke his foot in the Big West championship. Edwin is a tremendous player. He’s working on his fitness level. He wants to go play on the next level, and he has the potential to do that both athletically and technically.”
(On overall goals for the season): “We hopefully can stay mentally tough and consistent throughout the whole year. Hopefully we can be injury free and have the year we want.”
(On a tough non-conference schedule): “We’re going to (the state of) Colorado playing at altitude – that’s always a difficult situation. We have Bradley who was an NCAA playoff team. We have New Mexico who was a Final Four team. We have UCLA, to name a few. They’re always good and always hard to play, and they all pose different challenges tactically, technically and physically. We want to prepare ourselves for these games, and for the Big West.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
3 Highest national ranking in program history, achieved last year in the Sept. 17 NSCAA poll
6 NCAA Tournament appearances under head coach Terry Davila
15 The 2013 win total, tying the program’s Division I record for victories
31 Career goal count for senior Sagi Lev-Ari, placing him in a tie for sixth in Big West history in just two seasons
58 The number of assists CSUN accumulated last year to lead the nation
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Lead By Example: The CSUN Matadors welcome back three-time All-Big West First Team selection Casey Hinger for her final season. Last year she became the first CSUN Division I player to earn national accolades multiple times in her Matador career following her second-consecutive AVCA All-America Honorable Mention selection. In 2013, the middle blocker paced the Matadors in kills, kills per set, points and blocks. Her 358 kill total from a season ago ranked sixth in CSUN’s record book for the rally scoring era.
Double Threat: Two-time All-Big West First Team member Natalie Allen returns to the Matadors’ lineup in 2014. Bouncing back from a season-ending injury in 2012, the senior opposite displayed her dominance on both sides of the ball last year, ranking second on the team in kills (344), digs (334) and points (408). She also notched a team-high 14 double-doubles.
Out To Get Them: Returning a majority of the team that earned CSUN a share of its first-ever Big West title in 2013 definitely puts a target on the Matadors’ back as they enter the new year. The Matadors are coming off one of their most memorable seasons that witnessed them capture a share of the Big West title with UC Santa Barbara and Hawai’i, post their highest conference win total since joining the Big West in 2001 at 13-3, and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. CSUN’s 24 regular season wins was the third-most wins in the school’s Division I era and the highest win total since the 1992 squad posted a 27-8 mark.
Mark Your Calendars: Circle Friday, October 10 on your calendar as a must see matchup between CSUN and Hawai’i, two of the three teams that shared the 2013 Big West title. The past two seasons the Matadome has showcased epic five-set marathons between the Matadors and Rainbow Wahine and with both teams displaying a wealth of talent on their rosters, this year shouldn’t be any different. Hawai’i captured a road win in 2012 by scores of 22-25, 25-16, 17-25, 25-17, 19-17, while CSUN secured the home victory in 2013 by scores of 30-32, 28-26, 20-25, 25-22, 15-10, earning its first win over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 25 Long Beach State in 2008. The Matador-Rainbow Wahine showdown kicks off the home portion of CSUN’s schedule.
The Road Ahead: The conference portion of the Matadors’ schedule will be tough, but CSUN has a pretty impressive nonconference schedule on tap as well. The 11 teams CSUN faces over the first month of the season tallied a combined 229 wins and a winning percentage of .647 in 2013. In addition, five of the Matadors’ nonconference opponents qualified for the NCAA Tournament while a pair (San Diego, Stanford) reached the regional round. The Matadors will be on the road for the entire nonconference portion of its schedule traveling to Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma and San Diego for various tournaments. CSUN’s first home contest is slated for Friday, Oct. 10 when it entertains Hawai’i.
QUOTABLES – JEFF STORK
(On the roster): “We only lose 2.5 starters so we think we have good volleyball players and depth from last year. Steffi Miller will take over the setter position and a few players will be vying for Mahina’s spot. Time will tell how our freshmen fill in.”
(On the setter position): “We run a system that is very difficult to understand and learn. I think incoming freshman Lauren Conati is a very talented setter but it is going to take a little time to understand and implement the system. Steffi Miller has been here two years under Sydney Gedryn and has done a terrific job as the back up. She’s a very capable setter. Her leadership ability is very good.”
(On the strength of the team): “We think the dynamics of the team is going to be slightly different, maybe more to the offense side than to the defense side, which isn’t a bad place to be good.”
(On playing in the Big West): “The Big West Conference is always a difficult conference to be successful at in volleyball. Northridge is up for the challenge and we like the players that we have and we are optimistic about the results we will get.”
(On leadership): “Leadership comes from all over and I think we are very strong with our leadership.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
.667 Highest Big West winning percentage for the Matadors, posted in both 2003 and 2013.
5 Seniors on the 2014 CSUN women’s volleyball roster
10 Number of five-set victories CSUN posted in 2013
388 Career blocks for senior Casey Hinger, ranking her fourth in the CSUN annals for career blocks in the rally scoring era. She needs to record 104 blocks in 2014 to capture the top spot.
4,618 Miles CSUN will travel during the nonconference portion of its schedule, which contains no home matches.