‘Niners lose game and playoff spot to CSUN
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 15:10
Senior Day smiles turned to frowns following what may have been the Long Beach State women’s soccer team’s most heartbreaking loss of the season.
After being held scoreless for 103 minutes, the 49ers (12-7, 5-4 Big West Conference) allowed a controversial goal in double overtime and lost to Cal State Northridge (9-4-6, 6-1-2 Big West). It was a result that may have ended their season for good.
“It’s obviously really disappointing, and we’re all really upset,” senior forward Nadia Link said.
Link and the rest of the 49ers now have to hope that their Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) remains high enough to get them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Despite this most recent setback, Link still has high hopes that she has not played her last game in an LBSU uniform.
“We did a lot of good things in preseason that I know held us over during conference,” she said. “We’re very hopeful and confident that it will carry us to [the postseason],”
Head coach Mauricio Ingrassia echoed that sentiment.
“We’ve got a couple of good wins,” he said. “It’s going to be a nervous two weeks though. We’ll see.”
The 49ers have to wait for conference tournaments to conclude before the NCAA tournament field is announced. In the meantime, they will have to try to move on from their fourth double-overtime loss of the season.
LBSU entered its final game of the regular season needing a win and nothing less to move on to the Big West tournament. After its 5-0 drubbing of Hawaii on Friday, it seemed that the ‘Niners not only had the defense to get it done but had also accomplished some sort of offensive breakthrough. Quality play on both sides of the ball would be essential to defeating the Matadors on Senior Day.
Defense was not a problem for the 49ers. A back line anchored by seniors Alex Balcer and Jenny Soza performed as expected and only gave up three shots on goal in all of regulation. But a scoreless tie would not be an acceptable result for a team that needed a win to move on.
After a lackluster first half, during which the ‘Niners failed to earn even one shot on goal, the offense stepped up the pressure and created better chances in the second. Despite only getting off four shots, the 49er forwards found themselves with considerably more favorable matchups than they had earlier in the game.
Perhaps LBSU’s best chance of the game came late in the second half when Link chased down a ball near the Matador goal. Battling inside the box with a CSUN defender, Link managed to win the ball and give herself a one-on-one matchup with goalkeeper Cynthia Jacobo. Her shot sailed a few inches over the goal, however, and the ‘Niners found themselves locked in a scoreless tie with time running out.
“That was definitely our best chance,” Link said. “If I could have that one back a million times, I’m sure every single time, it would be in. A million more times — all of the other reps would be in.”
The final minutes of regulation passed without a score, and LBSU was soon headed to its seventh overtime of the year.
The 49ers failed to get off so much as a shot in the first overtime, and the teams moved on to the second overtime without much fanfare. Drama wasn’t far off, however, as it only took another two minutes for controversy to enter the fold.
After a harmless CSUN foul near the LBSU goal, Balcer set up for a free kick about ten yards outside the 49er box. She took the set piece before the Matadors had completely cleared the area, however, and nailed a nearby CSUN defender in the back.
LBSU goalkeeper Marrina Meyers, seemingly anticipating a redo of the free kick, ventured outside the box and picked up the ball. But head referee Mohamed Mahmoud didn’t call for a re-kick and instead charged Meyers with a handball, allowing CSUN to take a free kick of its own from within 25 yards of the 49er goal.
Immersed in a chorus of boos and yells of disapproval, CSUN took its free kick, but the ball clipped a 49er defender and shot past the right goalpost and out of play. On the ensuing corner kick, however, the Matadors’ Taylor Hobson grabbed possession of a rebound and struck the ball into the back-left corner of the net, sealing the victory and a spot in the Big West tournament for CSUN.
“I just think that that was bizarre,” Ingrassia, who was noticeably upset with the call, said after the game. “I don’t really have an opinion. I just want to see it on film first.”
Ingrassia will have a lot of time to look over that film as his team awaits the announcement of the NCAA tournament bracket. The Big West tournament will go on without the 49ers for just the second time in Ingrassia’s LBSU career, and a senior class filled with stars and key contributors may end their days of collegiate soccer on the sourest of notes — a double-overtime heartbreaker influenced by a splash of controversy.
“This is probably the most amazing team I’ve ever played on and the memories that I’ve had with this team, so far are some of the best memories of my life,” Link said. “This is the highlight of my life so far, and I’ll never forget it.”
The regular season Big West title and No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament will go to Cal State Fullerton, which defeated Pacific in its final game to finish at 7-2 in the conference. CSUN, Cal Poly and UC Irvine round out the remaining tournament participants, all of which will compete for an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
The Big West tournament will kick off Thursday at UCI.