Los Angeles Soccer: Ann Marie Tangorra
Five weeks in and things are starting to fall into place in the Premier Development League's Southwest Division, and that's with one side yet to open its season.
Longtime powers Orange County Blue Star and Ventura County Fusion took big steps forward, both them shaking off slow starts to their seasons with a pair of impressive victories.
Blue Star (2-0-3) clobbered first-place Fresno Fuego, 3-1, in the Central Valley, rolling to a three-goal lead through two Andrew Riemer goals and another by Adrian Avila, then headed home to handle the Ogden Outlaws, also by a 3-1 tally. Nico Olsak scored and assisted goals in that one.
Orange County, one of two unbeaten teams in the Southwest Division, climbed within a point of the Fuego (5-1-1), who are in Florida for a U.S. Open Cup second-round match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers from the second-tier North American Soccer League. The other unbeaten: BYU Cougars, who open their season this weekend.
The Fusion (2-1-1), coming off a U.S. Open Cup victory over the NPSL's Fullerton Rangers (and in advance of Tuesday's Open Cup second-rounder against the L.A. Blues) posted shutouts over the Ogden Outlaws (2-0) and Pali Blues (3-0), both second-tier sides at best within the division.
Victor Chavez (Fontana/A.B. Miller and UCLA) scored in both games for the third-place Fusion. Francisco Lopez played a role in all three goals against Pali.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
Kopf scored in the 46th, 54th and 90th minutes to lead the 24th-ranked Anteaters (13-3-2), who went 6-1-1 in Big West play to edge Long Beach State by a point. UC Irvine will be home Wednesday against UC Davis in a conference tournament semifinal.
UCLA transfer Natalia Ledezma added a goal and two assists for UCI, which scored three goals in the first 8½ minutes of the second half to turn a tight match into a rout.
Kopf's trio gives her 11 goals this season; Ledezma leads the Anteaters with 12.
UC Riverside closes its season at 8-9-2.
In other women's action:
- Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) scored the go-ahead goal in the 79th minute, then sent in a cross for Jazz Strozier (Ventura/Buena HS and Ventura College) to finish just 39 seconds later as Long Beach State pulled out a 4-2 victory over visiting Pacific. Link scored twice, her 13th and 14th goals of the season, as the 49ers (13-5-1) finished second in the Big West; they will meet Cal State Northridge in a conference tournament opener Wednesday.
- Sydney Leroux's 14th goal of the season arrived nearly eight minutes into overtime, lifting No. 6 UCLA (14-1-2) to a 1-0 Pacific 12 Conference victory at Utah.
- Ashley Freyer tallied in the 59th minute as USC (7-12-0) toppled host Colorado in a Pac-12 game, the Women of Troy's fourth win in their last five games.
- Lynn Williams and Laura Cole (Whittier/La Habra HS) scored 4½ minutes apart late in the first half as No. 3 Pepperdine (14-1-4) bounced back from Friday's loss to Santa Clara with a 2-1 victory over Portland.
Colorado's and Utah's addition to the old Pac 10 -- part of the megaconference movement running riot in the NCAA's Division I -- has changed the landscape in America's No. 2 college soccer conference (the Atlantic Coast remains No. 1).
Four Pac 12 teams are in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's top 25: No. 1 Stanford, the Bruins, No. 17 Cal and No. 24 Oregon State. Washington State is receiving votes.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Chandler Hoffman's hat trick lifted UCLA (4-2-1) to a 3-2 comeback win over UC Santa Barbara -- and back into the NSCAA's top 25. The junior from Alabama has seven goals in his past six games.
Local conference Players of the Week:
The fifth-ranked Anteaters and the Titans suffered their first defeats Sunday, dropping tight encounters on the East Coast.
Irvine (7-1-0) fell, 2-0, in a showdown with 12th-ranked South Florida, which got goals from Wesley Charpie in the 13th minute and Dom Dwyer in the 82nd.
Fullerton (5-1-1), which is ranked 24th by Soccer America, was beaten, 2-1, at George Mason on Taylor Morgan's penalty kick with about 20 minutes to go. Nick Posthuma (Pasadena/St. Francis HS) scored for the Fullerton in the 52nd minute, answering Julio Aronja's strike in the final minute of the second half.
In other men's action:
- Kelyn Rowe's spectacular shot from 30 yards -- off the left post, off the right post and in -- 88 seconds into overtime lifted UCLA (4-2-1) to a 1-0 victory at San Diego.
- Ben Sperber (Palm Desert/Desert Christian HS) provided an early lead, but UC Riverside (3-2-1) settled for a 1-1 draw with visiting San Jose State when Nick Cashmere tallied with 92 seconds left in regulation.
- Jason Swope scored twice in the final 10 minutes of regulation as Cal State L.A. (4-0-2), ranked 10th in NCAA Division II, rallied for a 2-2 California Collegiate Athletic Association draw with visiting Chico State.
- Cal State Dominguez Hills (3-2-1) closed a tough CCAA weekend as Cal State Stanislaus used a physical game plan -- committing 25 fouls to 11 for the Toros -- en route to a 1-0 victory. CSUDH was ranked 23rd in the NCAA Division II poll but lost, 5-0, Friday to Chico State.
- Cal Poly Pomona (4-2-0) topped visiting UC San Diego, 3-0, in a CCAA clash on goals by Boris Beta, Ian Trantow (Riverside/Arlington HS) and Jonathan Enns.
Nicole Hubbard scored a hat trick as Long Beach State broke out a deadly attack Sunday afternoon, routing St. Mary's, 6-0, at George Allen Field.
Hubbard (Lakewood/Mayfair HS) tallied in the 17th, 29th and 64th minutes for the 49ers (6-3-0), who also received big games from Shawna Gordon and Nadia Link.
The college women's season kicked off for real Friday with Long Beach State riding its biggest star to pull out a tight victory over No. 25 USC at McAllister Park.
Two-time first-team All-Big West midfielder Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS) beat USC goalkeeper Shelby Church with an 86th-minute header to lift the 49ers to a 2-1 triumph.
Defender Alex Balcer also scored, on a 45-yard free kick off Church's hands, for Long Beach State, which rallied after Haley Boysen (Moorpark/Harvard-Westlake School) gave the Women of Troy a 17th-minute advantage with a looping header off Brittany Kerridge's free kick.
The 49ers are expected to battle UC Irvine, which won its opener (see below), for the Big West Conference title this season, and USC provides a decent barometer, even if the meeting came a little early for Mauricio Ingrassia.
“I think for both teams, first game out, not a lot of rhythm that can be developed,” the eighth-year Long Beach State coach told ESPN Los Angeles. “It would have been nice to play each other maybe five games in, when we've had a little time to settle our lineups.”
Gordon scored after a long throw-in at 6-foot-1 Jazz Strozier (Ventura/Buena HS and Ventura College) flicked into the goalmouth. The ball was knocked about and into the air, and the midfielder -- “Our leader,” Ingrassia called her -- leapt above three others to nod the ball into the net.
The Seahorses (3-2-0) are coming off back-to-back Premier Development League wins over longtime power Orange County Blues Star, winning 2-0 last week in Irvine and 2-1 on Wednesday night in La Mirada. Ryan Shaw (La Cañada Flintridge/St. Francis HS) scored three goals -- giving him five in five games -- in the victories.
Now the club, part of a Christian organization that includes the USL Pro league's Charlotte Eagles, looks to bounce back from the 4-0 home loss last weekend to Southwest Division leader Ventura County Fusion (5-0-2). They meet Sunday evening at Ventura College.
The Blue Heat (2-0-1) last week played two-time W-League champ Pali Blues to a scoreless draw, then destroyed archrival L.A. Strikers, 7-2, after scoring three goals -- by Hannah Beard, Portuguese star Edite Fernandes and Cal State Fullerton's Ann Marie Tangorra (Arcadia/Arcadia HS and Cal State L.A.) -- in the first 25 minutes.
Santa Clarita returns home, The Master's College on this occasion, to take on reigning Western Conference champ Vancouver Whitecaps (3-0-1), who have conceded just one goal this season.
More on local clubs and players:
When the opportunity to own a women's soccer team presented itself last year, Joe and Debbie Caracciolo jumped at the it. It cost them a friendship but gave their club an archrival before it had a name, coach, players or a place to play.
The L.A. Strikers will make their debut Saturday in the USL W-League, taking on two-time league champion Pali Blues in the 1 p.m. opener of a tripleheader at Cal State Fullerton, but the dates to circle on the calendar are May 29 and July 13.
That's when the Pasadena-based side takes on the Santa Clarita Blue Heat, a second-year club that counted Debbie Caracciolo as operations manager last year. The parting was not sweet -- Blue Heat owner Carlos Marroquin felt blindsided, Caracciolo felt abandoned -- and the battle will be intense.
"I went from hero to zero [with Marroquin] the minute I chose this franchise," Caracciolo said. "In my eyes, we had this partnership of working together, and I thought we had a great relationship throughout the entire season. At the end of season, when the opportunity presented itself, you'd think he'd be happy for me, that we were able to put this together, about another game to add to the schedule. That wasn't the case. I don't understand why he's upset I'm not working there."
Marroquin says he'd have loved to have been supportive, but he felt betrayed because he said the Caracciolos didn't let him know they were considering taking their own team -- not until they had done so.
'TASTE OF IT': Both head into the season with similar goals: to reach the playoffs, give players an opportunity to grow and showcase their talents, and to connect with their communities -- and especially the youth soccer clubs.
Cal State L.A.'s women and Cal State San Bernardino's men -- the top regular-season teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association -- were awarded expected at-large berths into the NCAA Division II tournaments.
None of the other L.A.-area schools were part of a decent CCAA contingent.
Cal State L.A. is headed to Seattle for the first two rounds in the 48-team women's bracket, and San Bernardino is one of three CCAA teams that will play at Chico State in Northern California in the 32-team men's tournament.
Six CCAA teams are in the fields.
Long Beach State's women are headed to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years after upsetting 11th-ranked UC Irvine, 1-0, in Sunday's Big West Conference tournament title game.
Defender Bo Rael (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS), an Oregon transfer, headed home a corner kick by UCLA transfer Nicole Sweetman (Oxnard/Oaks Christian HS) eight minutes into the second half to lift the visiting 49ers (14-5-2), who needed outstanding defense -- led by Alex Balcer, who repeatedly made big plays -- and a little bit of luck.
UCI (17-2-2) hit the goal frame three times, with left back Nikki Forrest (Upland/Upland HS) nearly pulling the Anteaters even with a drive off the right post in the 76th minute.
“We knew we had to have a game plan, we knew we had to be flawless, we believe in ourselves, we know we can beat anyone in the country with the right game plan and the right mentality, and the team's really come a long way,” said Mauricio Ingrassia (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS and Cal State Fullerton), who has won three Big West regular-season titles in seven seasons as Long Beach State coach -- after winning five state and two mythical national titles at Long Beach City College.