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.
“Last year we won one league game, and it's virtually the same roster. We've matured and are a year older. I'm just really proud of this team.”
Goalkeeper Emily Kingsborough was the tournament MVP after bouncing back from what could have been a horrific first-half mistake -- she let a CoCo Goodson free kick bounce in her box and off the crossbar -- with several big saves as UCI applied heavy pressure in the final 15 minutes.
The 49ers also get big contributions from gifted midfielder Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS), skilled forward Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) and versatile midfielder Lindsay Bullock (Manhattan Beach/Mira Costa HS), whose physical play disrupted UCI's attack Sunday.
The NCAA pairings will be announced Monday on ESPNU at 1:30 p.m. UC Irvine figures to get an at-large bid, and UCLA and USC also are expected to receive berths in the 64-team tournament. None of the locals are likely to be a top seed, but UCLA could be chosen as a site for first- and second-round games with a No. 1 seed brought in from outside the region.
Other potential destinations for local schools are No. 1 Stanford and No. 2 Portland, hardly appetizing assignments.
NCAA Divisions II and III men's and women's pairings also will be released Monday. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps' men and Redlands' women are assured berths in the D3 fields.
A rundown of Southern California conference tournaments:
Big West men: Cal State Fullerton will visit regular-season champ UC Irvine and Cal Poly plays at UC Santa Barbara in Wednesday's openers. The final is Saturday.
The seventh-ranked Anteaters (14-2-3) clinched the title with a 3-1 win over Cal State Fullerton that followed a 0-0 draw with UCSB and a shock 2-1 loss to Cal State Northridge, which prevailed on a diving header by Mattias Bonhevi (Lake Balboa/El Camino Real HS) with 32 seconds to play.
CCAA men: Cal State San Bernardino won the California Collegiate Athletic Association's South Division title, then followed with two 1-0 losses -- the second in a CCAA tournament semifinal against Sonoma State. Now the Coyotes must wait for the NCAA D2 tournament announcement.
Sonoma State snagged the automatic berth by beating Cal State Dominguez Hills, 1-0, in the tournament final. The Toros had won their previous four games by shutout.
CCAA women: CCAA South champ Cal State L.A. headed into the conference tournament on hat tricks by Ann Marie Tangorra (Arcadia/Arcadia HS) and Liz Franco, needed overtime to beat host Cal State Stanislaus in the semifinal -- the winner coming from Alex Conley (Costa Mesa/Newport Harbor HR) -- then lost on penalties to San Francisco State following a 1-1 draw in the final.
SCIAC men: Claremont-Mudd Scripps (14-3-2) claimed the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's automatic berth to the NCAA D3 tournament with a 1-0 victory over regular-season champ Redlands (13-3-2) in the tournament final. Freshman defender Daniel Price (Quartz Hill/Quartz Hill HS) scored in the 85th minute for the Stags.
SCIAC women: Redlands (10-9-0) stunned regular-season champ Cal Lutheran (18-2-1), then beat second seed Occidental (12-4-2) in overtime to claim the NCAA D3 berth. Fionna Connolly scored the second goal in a 2-0 semifinal victory and the 106th-minute decider to win the final, 1-0.
GSAC men: Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season champ Vanguard (12-7-0, but 17-1-1 on the field) will meet third-seeded Azusa Pacific (16-3-1) in the title game Saturday in Costa Mesa. The Lions averted an upset by Concordia in the quarterfinals as Alejandro Lopez (Orange/Servite HS) scored an 86th-minute winner, then beat Biola, 2-0, in the semis. Vanguard has won nine in a row.
GSAC women: NAIA third-ranked Azusa Pacific (15-1-2), the regular-season winner, shut out Fresno Pacific and Concordia -- Heidi Witschi scored in both -- to reach Friday's title game against Cal Baptist (13-4-2), which avenged a 5-1 regular-season defeat to The Master's win a semifinal triumph on penalty kicks.
Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School) scored her nation's-best 22nd and 23rd goals to lift Stanford's top-ranked women past Oregon State, 2-0, and to its second successive Pac-10 title.
Sydney Leroux scored three times and Lauren Barnes (Upland/Upland HS) added two more as UCLA's women (12-7-1) closed out their regular season with shutout wins over Washington State, Arizona and Arizona State. The Bruins had lost their three previous games -- at Oregon State and USC and at home against Washington -- by shutout.
USC's women (12-5-3) won four of their final five regular-season games, wrapping up with a 5-0 pasting of Arizona -- Ashley Freyer scored and assisted -- to bounce back from a 3-0 loss to Arizona State.
Callie Payetta (Huntington Beach/Huntington Beach HS) scored two goals and assisted another to lift Pepperdine's women (9-6-5) to a 3-2 win over No. 14 Santa Clara in their season finale. Loyola Marymount (10-6-2) also beat the Broncos, with Tawni Martino (Irvine/Beckman HS) and Brittney Sanford scoring in a 2-0 triumph.
UCLA's men (13-4-1) have won five of their last six -- four by shutout -- and head into their regular-season finale Saturday at San Diego State one point behind Pac-10 leader Cal.
Loyola Marymount's men (11-5-2) beat Portland as Rafael Baca (Lawndale/Animo Leadership HS) scored twice, then rallied from a two-goal deficit to topple Gonzaga and gain a share of the West Coast Conference lead with Santa Clara.