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.
Lisa Ohberg scored with 10 minutes to go, and Cal State L.A. won in the NCAA tournament for the first time, pulling out a 2-1 victory over No. 5 Seattle Pacific in a Division II second-round clash. Long Beach State transfer Janet Mendez (Palmdale/Highland HS) fired the Golden Eagles (13-4-3) ahead from Ayana Younge's through ball just 82 seconds into the game, but Megan Lindsay pulled Seattle Pacific (17-3-0) even in the 29th minute. Cal State L.A. will face a California Collegiate Athletic Association rival -- the winner of Sunday's UC San Diego-Chico State second-rounder -- in Friday's West Region final.
Michelle Stathatos scored five minuttes into overtime, and UC Santa Cruz stunned No. 10 Cal Lutheran, 1-0, in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament. The Regals (20-2-1) won both regular-season meetings against UCSC (9-5-2), but they couldn't score despite a 16-3 shot advantage in regulation. Nicole Rains nearly gave Cal Lu a 90th-minute win, but her try hit the crossbar. The Banana Slugs on Sunday will face Concordia-Moorhead (12-3-6), which beat Puget Sound on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw in the first game.
Lindsay Vesling (Newbury Parl/Newbury Park HS) tallied in the 64th minute to send Cal Baptist (14-2-1) to the NCCAA national tournament with a 1-0 victory over Golden State Athletic Conference rival The Master's (11-9-1) in the Christian postseason tournament's West Regional final.
MEN: Anteaters rally to win Big West
Miguel Ibarra knocked home a rebound 14 minutes into overtime as UC Irvine completed a Big West Conference double, adding the conference tournament title to its regular-season crown with a 3-2 victory over visiting UC Santa Barbara.
Ibarra (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) scored after freshman Cameron Iwasa hit the post as the 11th-ranked Anteaters (16-5-1), controversially snubbed from the NCAA tournament last year, claimed the Big West's automatic berth. Pairings will be announced Monday.
Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS) scored in the 64th minute and with a free kick set up Dom Sarle's 68th-minute strike as the No. 15 Gauchos rallied to take a 2-1 lead. Christopher Santana scored a first-half goal for UCI.
The Anteaters' Enrique Cardenas (Coachella/Coachella Valley HS) headed home a long throw-in from Jimmy Turner (Mission Viejo/Mission Viejo HS) in the 88th to force the extra period.
The win was the Anteaters' second this season over UCSB (14-6-1), which is expected to receive an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
In other men's action:
Victor Chavez (Fontana/A.B. Miller HS) scored just before halftime and Chandler Hoffman netted his 16th goal of the season in the 83rd minute as No. 6 UCLA (15-4-1) completed a 10-0 run through its Pacific 12 Conference slate with a 2-0 victory at San Diego State.
Jason Swope tallied twice in the first half and No. 17 Cal State L.A. (15-1-6) held for a 3-2 victory at No. 13 Seattle Pacific (14-4-2) in an NCAA Division II tournament second-round showdown. Swope scored in the 26th and 41st minutes and Antti Arvola scored from a free kick midway through the second half for the Golden Eagles, who next week will meet the winner of Sunday's second-rounder between Fort Lewis and Incarnate Word.
No. 13 Redlands (19-3-1) romped into the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament, using goals by Alex Laughton in the 37th minute and Jamie Griffin in the 50th to pull away toward a 4-1 triumph over visiting Pacific Lutheran (15-4-0) of Tacoma, Wash. Cody Carlson (Burbank/Burbank HS) and Charles Izydorek (Redlands/Arrowhead Christian Academy) also tallied for the Bulldogs, who will take on Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in a second-round game Sunday.
Eric Bean tallied in the 17th minute and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (15-5-1) went on to a 1-0 NCAA Division III first-round win over Chapman (11-5-3) in the second game of the doubleheader at Redlands. Claremont, which beat Redlands on penalties in the SCIAC tournament final, takes on the host Bulldogs for the fourth time this season in a second-round showdown Sunday.
Biola (13-5-2) rallied from a two-goal deficit to win the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament and claim an automatic NAIA tournament berth, notching a 3-2 victory over Concordia (14-4-1) as Carlos Ballesteros (Sun Valley/Paloma Valley HS) tallied in overtime. Marco Ruvalcaba (La Mirada/La Mirada HS) scored in the 53rd and 68th minutes for the Eagles, then set up the winner with a throw-in. Edgar Orozco (Santa Ana/Santa Ana HS, Corona HS and Golden West College) scored twice in the first 30 minutes for Concordia.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 1 (Bean 17), Chapman 0
Concordia 2 (Orozco 18, 30), Biola 3 (Ruvalcaba 53, 68, Ballesteros 105), OT
Redlands 4 (Carlson 12, Laughton 37, Griffin 50, Izydorek 86), Pacific Lutheran 1 (Piaquadio pen. 14)
San Diego 0, UCLA 2 (Chavez 45, Hoffman 83)
Seattle Pacific 2 (Pearman 48, Schultz 69), Cal State L.A. 3 (Swope 26, 41, Arvola 69)
UC Irvine 3 (Santana 39, Cardenas 88, Ibarra 105), UC Santa Barbara 2 (Silva 64, Sarle 68), OT
Cal Baptist 1 (Vesling 64), The Master's 0
Cal Lutheran 0, UC Santa Cruz 1 (Stathatos 96), OT
Cal State L.A. 2 (Mendez 2, Ohberg 80), Seattle Pacific 1 (Lindsay 29)
Pepperdine 0, Long Beach State 1 (Link 100), OT
Puget Sound 1 (Moore 18), Concordia-Moorhead (Minn.) 1 (Rounds 75), OT (Concordia-Moorhead advances on penalties, 3-1)
UCLA 1 (McCarthy 65), New Mexico 0
Home teams listed first