Los Angeles Soccer: Brittney Sanford
UC Irvine had final-four aims a year ago, when head coach George Kuntz's talented, senior-heavy team climbed into the top 10 before an upset loss to Cal State Fullerton in the conference tournament and a poor RPI kept it out of the NCAA tournament, one of the most stunning omissions we've seen in the men's soccer brackets.
Expectations this fall aren't so towering. The Anteaters were picked fourth in the Big West Conference's preseason coaches poll, behind UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly and Fullerton.
Might want to rethink that.
Irvine is off to a 6-0-0 start for the first time in school history after rallying twice from first-half deficits, then pulling away to a 4-2 non-conference victory Sunday at Midwest power Illinois-Chicago.
Enrique Cardenas (Coachella/Coachella Valley HS) scored in the 58th minute and Christopher Santana in the 77th to lift the Anteaters, who are No. 9 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America men's Division I rankings.
UIC (2-1-2) went ahead twice, on goals off corner kicks by Zach Kaleta in the fourth minute and Craig Krzyskowski in the 22nd, but UCI answered immediately both times, through Christian Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) in the 13th and Jonathan Rivas (Norwalk/Santa Fe HS and Cerritos College) in the 24th.
In other men's action:
- Ryan Lee and Chandler Hoffman scored first-half goals to lead UCLA (2-2-1) past 10-man Loyola Marymount (2-3-0). The Bruins dominated the game, outfiring LMU, 13-4; the Lions were handicapped when Logan McDaniel (Palmdale/Quartz Hills HS) was red-carded in the 14th minute, just 23 seconds after Lee tallied.
- Jesse Escalante (Placentia/Valencia HS) and Nick Posthuma (Pasadena/St. Francis HS) scored to lead Cal State Fullerton (4-0-1) past San Francisco, 2-0, to win UNLV's event, the Titans' second tournament championship in as many weekends.
- Cal State Northridge (2-3-0), just seven minutes from victory, surrendered three goals in 97 seconds and lost, 3-1, to New Mexico in the decisive encounter of the Lobos' tournament. Gustavo Villalobos (Van Nuys/Birmingham HS) tallied for the Matadors in the 35th minute.
UC Riverside's women's soccer team won one game and scored three goals in 2010. The Highlanders matched that Friday night.
Aaren Casimiro (Murrieta/Chaparral HS) and Deborah Musa (La Verne/Bonita HS) scored first-half goals two minutes apart and Andrea Morales added a second-half tally as UC Riverside (1-1-1) routed Mississippi State, 3-0, in its annual Women's Soccer Invitational.
It's a big step forward following last year's 1-14-3 campaign, in which UCR was outscored, 25-3, and after five seasons of decline since going 11-4-6 and playing in the NCAA tournament in 2005.
Head coach Veronica O'Brien, who took charge when the Highlanders made the jump to Division I in 2001, posted double-digit victories in five straight seasons, through 2006, but her teams have won just seven Big West Conference games in five years and is 1-13-2 the past two.
She's got nine starters back and loads of newcomers -- 17 freshmen are on the roster, with midfielder Brianna Gonzalez (Victorville/Sultana HS) and redshirt goalkeeper Jessica Olafsen in the starting lineup Friday -- as the rebuild begins in earnest.
UCR meets San Jose State in Sunday's tournament finale. The Spartans lost, 2-1, in overtime to No. 13 UC Irvine in the event's opener. Amanda Hardeman (Laguna Niguel/Dana Hills HS and Santiago Canyon College) scored the 101st-minute winner, a blast that ricocheted off the crossbar, off goalkeeper Meghan Maiwald's back and into the net.
WILLIAMS TOPS TITANS: Freshman Lynn Williams scored in the final minute to force overtime and again in the extra period, lifting Pepperdine to a 2-1 victory at Cal State Fullerton. The Waves (3-0-0) rallied quickly after Stacey Cox (Simi Valley/Royal HS) scored a would-be winner in the 84th minute for the Titans (1-1-1).
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.
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.