Long Beach State enters conference play with nation’s seventh-best RPI
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 23:09
The Long Beach State women’s soccer team has endured its toughest matches of the season and will begin Big West Conference play ranked among the best in collegiate soccer.
Following a 1-0 defeat of San Diego in their final nonconference game, the 49ers (7-3) moved up one spot in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Coaches Poll to 21st in the nation. They are also positioned seventh in the season’s first Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) rankings — a spot earned by tough scheduling and clutch wins.
“It’s been a lot of work and years of scheduling and fundraising to get out to some of these places, and we’re getting some of those returns now,” head coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good position, but now there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
LBSU’s high RPI can largely be credited to matchups with No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 9 BYU and No. 22 Michigan. The Beach has also faced Baylor and Texas Tech, each of which rank in the top 50 of the nation’s RPI.
The ‘Niners will likely see a dip in their RPI as soon as Big West play begins, however, as UC Irvine is the only conference school with a top-50 ranking. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything at stake for the 49ers though, as they will be looking to win their third consecutive Big West title.
“Obviously, you’re playing for a league championship now,” Ingrassia said. “Knowing the implications that each game has — that’s the biggest difference. There’s a lot more riding on some of these conference games.”
The level of competition in the Big West may not be as strong as The Beach faced in its nonconference schedule, but Ingrassia said his team’s chances of running the table are slim despite being the clear favorites in every match.
“We’ve never done that,” he said of sweeping the conference. “I think there was one year we went undefeated and there was a tie. We just set out to do the best we can each and every game. Our sport is really difficult — it’s like if you ask a baseball team to go undefeated, it’s going to be tough.”
The 49ers will open Big West play with a pair of road games this weekend, as they will face UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton on Friday and Sunday.
Big West at a Glance
UC Irvine (4-7-0; RPI: 50)
UC Irvine has faced a nonconference schedule that is comparable to LBSU’s, which is the main reason its record is only 4-7. The Anteaters endured losses to BYU, Texas A&M, No. 12 San Diego State, but also handed No. 23 Oregon State its only loss. They are led by forward Natalie Ledezma, whose four assists rank second in the Big West.
Cal State Northridge (3-3-3; RPI: 63)
The Matadors enjoy arguably the best defense in the Big West, as they have given up a conference-low six goals this season. That success is in large part due to the play of goalkeeper Cynthia Jacobo, who has 61 saves and four shutouts to her name this season. The problem for CSUN is its offense, as it has only managed to score eight times so far this year.
Cal State Fullerton (3-6-0; RPI: 93)
The Titans are another squad in the Big West that has fallen victim to tough matchups and tough luck. Each of Fullerton’s six losses have been by one goal, and three came against nationally-ranked teams — one of which was No. 1 Florida State. Thanks to top scorer Ann Marie Tangola, Fullerton is one of two schools to score against the Seminoles this year.
UC Santa Barbara (3-6-1; RPI: 109)
UC Santa Barbara has been a streaky side this season, as its three wins are sandwiched between 0-2 and 0-4-1 runs. The Gauchos have the luxury of blaming this trend on inexperience, however, as they only have one senior among their regular starters. The offensive attack is led by underclassmen as well, which is a big reason why UC Santa Barbara is tied for last in the Big West with eight goals.
Hawaii (5-3-2; RPI: 128)
Much like the 49ers, the Rainbow Wahine are nearly invincible at home, but haven’t found the same success on the road. Hawaii sports a 4-0-2 record in the paradise of the Pacific Ocean, but has only managed to go 1-3 on the mainland. Those struggles can’t be blamed on forward Tania Fujimoto, however, as the forward leads the Big West with six goals on the year.
Pacific (3-6-0; RPI: 149)
After beginning their season with one tie and five losses, the Tigers have turned things around and won three of their last four. Thanks to the emergence of forward Maricela Padilla and her team-leading five goals, Pacific has gotten some much-needed momentum heading into Big West play. To keep it going, however, the Tigers will have to work on keeping the yellow cards to a minimum. They currently lead the conference with 10.
Cal Poly (3-5-1; RPI: 154)
The polar opposite of Pacific, Cal Poly enters conference play with a five-game losing streak. The Mustang defense is largely to blame for that run, as it has given up 15 goals in those five games alone. That’s three more than LBSU has given up all season. To get back into the win column, Cal Poly will have to rely on Cristina Farrington and Elise Krieghoff for goals.