October 31, 2012

Key Battles Remain as Titans Look to Lock-Up Playoff Berth

THIS WEEK...
Cal State Fullerton at Cal State Northridge
Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 | 7 p.m.
Matador Soccer Field
Northridge, Calif.
Game Coverage: Live Stats | Audio

UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton
**SENIOR NIGHT**
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 | 7 p.m.
Titan Stadium (10,000)
Fullerton, Calif.
Game Coverage: Live Stats | Video | Audio

KICK OFF: Winners of three-straight matches, the Cal State Fullerton men's soccer team (7-10-1 overall, 3-4-1 in the Big West Conference) makes its final push for the Big West Conference Tournament this week with a pair of matches to wrap up the 2012 regular season. The Titans look for more treats than tricks on Wednesday (Oct. 31) as they try and sweep the season series from Cal State Northridge before returning home for the "Senior Night" season finale against UC Riverside at Titan Stadium. Both matches are scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. at their respective sites.

IN THE POLLS: Neither Cal State Fullerton nor UC Riverside are ranked among the top 25 this week... Cal State Northridge is ranked No. 20 in the Soccer America Top 25 while also receiving votes in the NSCAA and Soccer Times national polls this week.

BE A FOLLOWER: Fans can keep up with the latest in Titans athletics by following us on Facebook (CSUF.Athletics) and Twitter (@FullertonTitans).

"CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?": Thanks to a partnership with Arizona-based Stretch Internet, Cal State Fullerton's home matches, as well as selected road contests, can be heard live over the Internet at FullertonTitans.com. To access the links, click on the headphones icon in the upper right-hand corner of the newly redesigned FullertonTitans.com and enjoy the action.

"CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?": For the fifth consecutive year, institutions will air select matches on BigWest.TV, including all Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara contests. For the 2012 season, all BigWest.TV events will air free of charge. Head to http://www.bigwest.org/thisweek for weekly event schedules. BigWest.TV brings together live and on-demand video from each of the Big West's ten member institutions. Now in its eighth year, BigWest.TV covers Big West sports, press conferences, interviews and features, including every home and conference contest in women's volleyball as well as men's and women's basketball. Also covered are select contests in women's soccer, baseball, softball and Big West Conference Championships.

I NEED STATS, STAT!: Barring technical difficulties, live stats will be available this weekend's match. Visit the men's soccer schedule page on FullertonTitans.com to access the links.

"O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!": Senior defender Bobby Reiss was named team captain for the 2012 season.

BRYAN ESCALANTE NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Cal State Fullerton junior goalkeeper Bryan Escalante was named the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday afternoon after his third-straight win in net helped lift the Titans to a win over UC Irvine and a key three points in the standings. Escalante, making his third-straight start after posting wins over nationally ranked Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside a week earlier, finished with six saves -- just one off his career high -- while facing 15 Irvine shots to shutout the Anteaters, solidifying Fullerton's hold on the second and final playoff spot in the Big West's South Division.

CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE BRIEFLY: The Matadors enter the week with a 12-5 overall record and a 6-2 mark in Big West play, having already clinched the South Division crown and a spot in the conference tournament... Northridge has won its last two matches, posting 2-1 wins over UC Irvine and UC Riverside since suffering a loss to Fullerton on Oct. 17... Sagi Lev-Ari leads the team with 12 goals and 24 points, pacing an offense that has outscored the opposition, 36-17... 10 different players have scored for the Matadors this season... Michael Abalos has a 1.05 goals against average, 43 saves, and five shutouts this season in net for Northridge.

HEAD-TO-HEAD VERSUS THE MATADORS: Cal State Northridge leads the all-time series with Cal State Fullerton, 18-15-2, with the Titans winning the first meeting between the two schools this season, 5-4, on Oct. 17 at Titan Stadium... the win was just the third for the Titans in the last 16 meetings (3-12-1)... Fullerton is 7-9 all-time in matches played in Northridge, having lost seven of the last eight in the Valley with the last win coming in 2010 by the score of 3-1.

UC RIVERSIDE BRIEFLY: The Highlanders enter the week with a 9-7 overall record, but have lost their last two straight, and five of the last six overall, with their only win in that stretch coming by a 4-1 score over UC Irvine on Oct. 17... Jimmy Martinez and Aaron Long lead the team with five goals apiece with Martinez holding the slim edge with 12 points... Otis Earle and Juan Mendoza pace the squad with six assists apiece... Ashkan Khosravi has posted a 1.20 goals against average, 56 saves, and four shutouts this season, playing in all but 58 minutes between the pipes.

HEAD-TO-HEAD VERSUS THE HIGHLANDERS: Cal State Fullerton leads the all-time series with UC Riverside, 14-8-4, including posting a, 3-2, double-overtime win in the Inland Empire on Oct. 20... the Titans are 7-5-1 against the Highlanders at home, but has won just twice in the last five matches at Titan Stadium... four of the last 10 meetings have ended in draws with Fullerton posting a 5-1-4 mark in those contests.

I THINK HE'S GOT THE HANG OF THIS: Senior forward Gerzon Blanco netted his second game-winning goal in as many matches over the weekend, scoring in the 83rd minute to break a scoreless deadlock and help boost the Titans past the Anteaters. The score was the Placentia native's third of the year and came just one week after he netted the "golden goal" game-winner in the second overtime at UC Riverside on the road. Blanco ranks third on the team with three goals and eight points and is one of only five players to net a game-winner for the Titans this season.

LIVING ON THE EDGE: Each of Cal State Fullerton's last four victories have come by a single goal dating back to a 2-1 win over San Diego on Sept. 23, as the Titans have had 12 one-goal contests in 18 matches overall this season (5-7 in those games).

ON A ROLL (HOLD THE MAYO): A big part of Fullerton's second, three-match winning streak of the season has been the play of Gerzon Blanco and teammate Ian Ramos, who have combined to score six of the team's nine goals and collect three assists in that span while taking 16 shots (nine for Ramos, seven for Blanco) -- putting 12 on frame.

MAKING THE ADJUSTMENT: Statistically, Fullerton has been a second-half squad in 2012, scoring 20 of its 25 goals and taking 163 of its 250 shots (65%) in the second half or later this season. The Titans have been outscored, 16-5, and surrendering 36 more shots in the first 45 minutes compared to just a two-goal (17-15) advantage in the second period and a 3-0 lead in overtime. However, it has been a big hole for Cal State Fullerton to dig out of as the Titans are just 4-10-1 this season when trailing or tied at halftime, winning for only the second time this season when behind at the break against Cal State Northridge, trailing 3-1 at halftime before rallying for their 5-4 victory.

THAT'S A NEAT TRICK: Ramos' hat trick against Cal State Northridge on Oct. 17 was the first for a Titan in over nine years dating back to Nov. 4, 2003, when Brent Whitfield scored his seventh, eighth, and ninth goals in a 3-1 win over Fresno State at home.

HIGH FIVE!: Fullerton's five goals against Cal State Northridge (and four goals in the second half) were a season high and most since the Titans scored five times in a 5-1 win over UNLV on Sept. 3, 2011 -- a match that also featured a four-goal half but, this time, all coming in the first 45 minutes.

DANGEROUS DUO: The sophomore-senior 1-2 punch of Ian Ramos and Jesse Escalante have been a powerful force up front for the Titans, combining to score just over half (13 of 25) of the team's goals and nearly half of the squad's points in 2012. Both rank among the league's top 10 in shots (t7th and t10th, respectively), points (5th and 6th), points per match (7th and t5th), and goals scored (t7th and t5th). Ramos also ranks tied for fifth in assists (5).

OT NO PROBLEM: With it's double-overtime win at UC Riverside on Oct. 20, the Titans remained unbeaten in overtime this season (3-0-1) and are unbeaten in their last six trips (3-0-3) to overtime overall dating back to 2011 and a 1-0 loss at UC Irvine on Oct. 22 -- its only loss in the team's last 11 extra-time contests.

ROAD WOE NO MO: Fullerton's win at UC Riverside didn't just pick up three key points for the Titans in the race for the Big West Conference Tournament, it also ended a couple of pretty lengthy road losing streak for Cal State Fullerton. The Titans' Inland Empire triumph snapped a 10-match road winless streak (0-9-1) since a 3-0 win at American University on Sept. 16, 2011, in Washington, D.C., and ended a 10-match road winless skid in regular season Big West Conference play that stretched back over two years since a 3-1 win at Cal State Northridge on Oct. 13, 2010.

FAN APPRECIATION: Cal State Fullerton's doubleheaders with the women's team on Sept. 28 & 30 drew the Titan faithful to Titan Stadium in droves as Friday night's clash with Cal Poly brought in 1,182 fans while the battle against No. 3 UC Santa Barbara attracted 1,002 fans to the stands. The two crowds were the highest for a men's soccer home match in over two years dating back to a 3-2 loss to Southern California rival UCLA on Sept. 26, 2010 -- a match that drew 1,208 fans.

STRIKE FIRST. STRIKE HARD. NO MERCY, SIR!: The Titans have committed the most fouls in the league entering this weekend's contests (262) and rank tied for third in the Big West with 34 yellow cards -- just one behind this week's opponents, Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside, for the top spot.