49ers to face No. 11 BYU in rematch of western powers

Long Beach State will host the Cougars after losing 1-0 in Provo, Utah last year.

Having won four of its last five games, the Long Beach State women’s soccer team will look to continue its success in nonconference play on Saturday when it hosts No. 11 Brigham Young.

The 49ers (4-3-0) return home Saturday to face the highly-competitive Cougars (4-1-1) with momentum shifted in their favor after concluding a road trip that ended a little better than it started. After dropping a 1-0 decision to Georgia on Friday, the ‘Niners topped Auburn with a 2-1 comeback win in overtime on Sunday.

“I think it’s going to be a great test for us to see if we can continue doing what we did last week,” head coach Mauricio Ingrassia said.

Saturday will be the first time the 49ers host a top-15 ranked team at George Allen Field since 2010, when they were ranked No. 11 and also hosted then-14th ranked BYU. The ‘Niners lost 1-0 at BYU last season on a penalty kick in the 82nd minute.

Dating back to last season, the Cougars (4-1-1) had won their last 22 games before losing 1-0 at UC Irvine last Friday. The loss resulted in a five-spot drop in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings.

BYU was an Elite Eight team last season in the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual champion North Carolina in the quarterfinals.

While LBSU welcomes a high-caliber team like BYU to its home field, Ingrassia said the game is just as big as any game the team plays.

“It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side in terms of our approach,” Ingrassia said. “I’m worried about us and continuing to build on who we are.”

With four wins in its last five games, Ingrassia said he has seen an all-around improvement in how the team’s been playing since the beginning of the season. However, he said he expects to see the team do more in one element that he’s been emphasizing not only during practice this week but also the whole season so far.

“Taking care of the ball, that’s the key,” Ingrassia said. “I think that was the lesson learned from the weekend; making sure [our players] understand that the ball is everything and we can’t be careless with it.”

Another lingering issue the ‘Niners are facing is scoring a goal in the first half. All 10 of LBSU’s goals this season have come in the second half. Ingrassia said he’s not concerned long-term, though, and that correcting these issues is just part of the process of a team maturing.

“We’ve done a great job these first seven games,” Ingrassia said. “This past weekend was another growth weekend for us, and I’m just looking forward to grow even more as a team.”

Saturday’s game between the ‘Niners and BYU will start at 7 p.m. at George Allen Field.

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