Los Angeles Soccer: Amanda LeCave
MALIBU -- Nadia Link has netted some wonderful goals this season, but few as sweet -- and none as important -- as her bending blast Saturday afternoon at Pepperdine.
Link fired into the far corner of the net with 13 seconds to go in the first overtime period to lift Long Beach State to a 1-0 triumph over the seventh-ranked Waves in an NCAA Division I tournament opener.
It was the first NCAA victory in 49ers history, and the first over a top-10 opponent, and it was product on Link's twisting shot and five big saves by goalkeeper Kaitlyn Gustaves.
“That's seven years of work -- seven and a half years ...,” said Long Beach State coach Mauricio Ingrassia, who has the 49ers in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years. “We had a couple of injuries [when we lost in the first round to San Diego] in '08. And last year we played our best game of the year against Santa Clara, but [their goalkeeper] had the game of her life. This year we felt we had the experience. It would have been very painful to be 0-3 in the tournament without scoring a goal.”
The goal was a beauty. Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) received a pass from midfielder Sidney Garza (Ventura /Buena HS), took the ball up the left flank, then cut inside along the top of the Waves box, where she found uncommon space.
She's a left-footer, but the shot was on her right, and it twisted away -- “corkscrewed,” is how Pepperdine coach Tim Ward put it -- toward the upper-right. Waves goalkeeper Roxanne Barker (Irvine/Woodbridge HS) never had a chance.
“The team was asking why did I wait so long,” said Link, who tied the school record with her 16th goal of the season. “I saw the pass coming from Sidney Garza, and all I heard was Mauricio saying, 'Take it down the line!' And I remember thinking, 'That's a long way.' ... It went in, and I don't even remember celebrating. I was too busy crying.”
Said Ward: “A moment was going to decide the game, and that moment [belonged to] Nadia Link. ... A great player scored a great goal to beat us.”
Link described the odd path of her shot as “the unpredictability of my right foot.”
The strike brought a dramatic end to a tight, thrilling clash marked by superb defense in the boxes, with Long Beach State's backline -- especially center back Jordan Nelson (Garden Grove/Pacifica HS and Loyola Marymount) -- doing well to get in the way of shots by Lynn Williams and Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS).
Gustaves (Long Beach/Wilson HS) came up big five times, including a double-save, the second with her foot, on Amanda LeCave after an uncharacteristic giveaway by defender Alex Balcer. The goalkeeper followed up by snagging a long shot by right back Michelle Pao, Pepperdine's most dangerous attacker, then made two diving saves on Williams in the second half.
Long Beach advances to a second-round clash Friday against Miami (10-7-1), a 3-2 winner over Alabama, at UCLA's Drake Stadium.
In other women's action:
- Freshman Kylie McCarthy knocked home a 65th-minute rebound as No. 2 UCLA (16-1-3) scored a 1-0 victory over visiting New Mexico (12-5-4) in an NCAA Division I first-round game. The Bruins limited the Mountain West Conference champion to three shots, just two on target, in a dominant performance en route to a second-round clash Friday in Westwood against San Diego.
The eighth-ranked Waves (15-1-4) claimed their first conference title since 2002 when San Diego routed Santa Clara, 3-0, knocking the seventh-ranked Broncos from the top spot they wrested last weekend from Pepperdine.
San Diego (12-7-0), which was led by three Stephanie Ochs assists, also claimed a share of the crown, but Pepperdine wins the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament after beating the Toreros last month.
Santa Clara (13-2-5) fell to 6-1-1 in WCC play; USD and Pepperdine finished 7-1.
The Waves scored a 4-0 victory over San Francisco in Malibu, with Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS) and Amanda LeCave scoring first-half goals and Karissa Garcia and Michelle Pao tallying after halftime.
In other women's action:
- Sydney Leroux scored her 15th and 16th goals and assisted two by freshman Sam Mewis as fourth-ranked UCLA (15-1-3) romped to a 5-2 win over USC (7-13-0) in front of 3,826 at Drake Stadium. Zakiya Bywaters had three assists for the Bruins, who finished second to Stanford in the Pacific 12 Conference.
Natalia Ledezma netted a hat trick and UC Irvine took a huge step toward successive Big West Conference regular-season titles Sunday afternoon, romping to a 4-0 victory in a first-place showdown at Cal State Northridge.
Ledezma (La Mirada/La Mirada HS), a sophomore transfer from UCLA, followed a third-minute own goal with strikes in the 11th, 66th and 77th minutes as the Anteaters (12-3-2) improved to 5-1-1 in the Big West. Ledezma, who netted the first hat trick for UCI in 15 years, has 11 goals this season.
Northridge (6-8-2), a surprise contender for the conference title, fell to 4-2-1 in conference play. UC Davis (4-1-1) and Long Beach State (4-2) also are in the battle for the conference title.
Irvine and Northridge each have one conference match remaining.
In other women's action:
- Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS) and Amanda LeCave scored first-half goals as No. 4 Pepperdine (13-0-4) extended its unbeaten streak to 18 games with a 2-1 West Coast Conference victory at St. Mary's. The Waves are 5-0 in WCC play and stand two points in front of Santa Clara, which it faces Friday in the Bay Area.
- Chelsea Stewart scored in the 28th minute and fed Jenna Richmond for a goal in the 35th, and No. 7 UCLA (12-1-2) toppled visiting Arizona State, 2-0, in a Pacific 12 Conference clash.
- Elizabeth Eddy scored on a 60th-minute breakaway as USC (6-11-0) claimed its third straight Pac-12 victory, beating visiting Arizona, 1-0.