Cal State L.A. looks to defend Division II men’s soccer title

After 14 years as an assistant coach, Michael Erush finally landed his dream job last winter when he was promoted to head coach at Cal State LA. That is the good news. Perhaps the bad news was the fact that the promotion came less than three weeks after the Golden Eagles won their first NCAA Division II title.

If getting to the top was difficult, staying there might be even more difficult.

“What I said when I took over was ‘last year? Congratulations. That’s done.’ And we turned the page,” said Erush, who has added 19 players to his squad since the league game. “Because what did this team do? You have achieved nothing.”

That is not completely right. The team finished first in United Soccer Coaches’ national preseason poll and is unbeaten in two games of the new season, winning both games in shutouts. But Erush’s point is well made.

“You can’t think about the past because every single opponent who faces us will do their best to defeat the champions,” he said.

This is especially true in Southern California. The Golden Eagles had to beat regional rivals Cal Poly Pomona to reach the last four, where they defeated Nova Southeastern on penalties in the semifinals before beating Charleston 1–0 in the title game via a Simon Johansen goal.

Seventeen days after that game, Cal State LA coach Chris Chamides took over the women’s rehab program at Loyola Marymount University and Erush, 39, became the head coach of the Golden Eagles. Only four of the 11 starters in the championship game — including Johansen and goaltender Alvaro Unanua, who didn’t concede a goal in the final 317 minutes of the NCAA tournament — are back, leaving the new coach with a major challenge.

Coach Chris Chamides (with trophy), assistant Michael Erush and family celebrate winning the Division II football championship.

Head coach Chris Chamides holds the trophy alongside assistant Michael Erush and his family after winning the Division II men’s football championship.

(Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

“Any professional team, any top collegiate team, you want to keep being dominant,” he said of a program that’s 37-3-6 and has played in two national title games in the past two seasons. “This is a great opportunity for me as the new head coach. I have the opportunity to make my own name as the leader of the program.”

Fifth-ranked Cal Poly Pomona, one of only two teams to defeat Cal State LA last season, started the new year with two shutout wins, with Mike Moser scoring two goals as a sophomore and goaltender CJ Walker scoring two shutouts as a sophomore scored It was scheduled to play the Colorado School of Mines on Thursday night.

Azusa Pacific, ranked 19th, and Biola are both back with strong teams after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season.

“We are lucky. LA County is a hotbed for very good collegiate football players,” Erush said. “We have one of the toughest regions, most teams qualifying for a very limited number of NCAA spots. So it could be a game or two or a loss or two and you don’t do a tournament.

“Almost every game here is a rivalry because everyone wants to beat each other up to make their mark on the leaderboard.”

On the Division I side, UCLA, which is entering an NCAA tournament for the first time in three seasons under coach Ryan Jorden, is unbeaten in four starts this season and has no points, including two exhibitions. The Bruins, who finished fourth in the coaching polls – their best finish in seven years – are led by midfielder Tucker Lepley, who led the team as a redshirt freshman last season, and second defender Pietro Grassi, who entered the Hermann Trophy was appointed watch list.

Loyola Marymount University went 12-4-2 but was the first team selected for last fall’s tournament, meaning LMU would have been in if the field had been a team bigger. And the team finished 24th in the nation in Tuesday’s poll, picking up where they left off last fall and winning their first two games behind striker Adam Davie, who scores three goals, and midfielder Noel Caliskan, who was also shortlisted for the Hermann Trophy, college football’s highest individual award.

LMU was scheduled to face Nevada Las Vegas on Thursday night. Cal State L.A. looks to defend Division II men’s soccer title

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