Los Angeles Soccer: Carlos Ballesteros
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.
Cesar Diaz Pizarro struck with 2½ minutes to play Friday night, and UC Riverside completed a comeback for a 3-2 men's soccer triumph at UC Irvine, its third victory this season over a nationally ranked opponent.
The triumph leaves the Highlanders (9-5-2), who have twice beaten UC Santa Barbara this season, in position to qualify for the Big West Conference tournament and took command of the league's title race from ninth-ranked Irvine (13-5-1) and gave it to second-place UC Davis.
UCR twice rallied from deficits, with Jose Diaz (Corona/Santiago HS) answering Cameron Iwasa's early goal and Humberto Santiago scoring in the 79th minute to pull the Highlanders even after Christian Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) provided a 2-1 edge to the Anteaters in the 68th.
Pizarro (Chino/Ayala HS) scored his team-best ninth goal -- and school-record eighth career winning goal -- in the 88th minute.
UCI remains atop the standings with 16 points from a 5-3-1 conference record, but UC Davis (5-3), one point behind, has two games remaining, one more than the Anteaters. UCR (4-3-2) and UC Santa Barbara (4-4) also are in the race.
In other men's action:
- Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS) scored twice and assisted two more goals as UC Santa Barbara (11-5-1) held on for a 4-3 victory at Cal State Fullerton (7-6-4) to climb into fourth place, putting the Gauchos into position to qualify for the Big West tournament. UCSB finishes its regular season with games against Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly, its closest pursuers.
- Cal State Northridge (7-7-3) settled for its second successive scoreless draw, against visiting Cal Poly, and sits fifth, one spot outside a Big West tournament berth, with two games to go.
- Paul Islas tallied twice and Fresno Pacific held on for a 4-3 victory over Concordia (12-3-1), No. 8 in the NAIA rankings, in a showdown for the Golden State Athletic Conference title. Edgar Orozco (Santa Ana/Santa Ana HS, Corona HS and Golden West College) scored twice and added an assist for the Eagles.
The Master's College improved to 5-0-0 and won its men's tournament title Saturday, edging Oakland's Holy Names in a showdown for the trophy.
Marcelo Silva converted an 84th-minute penalty kick to lift the Santa Clarita-based Mustangs, who went ahead when Fabrice Gautrat (Valencia/Hart HS) headed in a cross from Jorge Serrano (Sylmar/Sylmar HS and College of the Canyons) in the seventh minute. Henry Goh pulled Holy Names even in the 78th.
Biola (4-1-0), ranked 14th in NAIA, also won, bouncing back from its loss to Holy Names with a 3-1 win over Westminster (Utah). Carlos Ballesteros (Sun City/Paloma Valley HS), Joao Toscan and Daniel Chew (Lake Forest/El Toro HS) scored goals.
In other men's action:
- Matthew Howard (Temecula/Great Oak HS) scored and set up Jesus Ramos (Norco/Norco HS) as Fullerton's Hope International rallied to beat Whittier, 3-2.
- James Ross' goal seven minutes into overtime lifted Riverside's La Sierra past Occidental, 2-1.
- Anaheim's unaffiliated Bethesda Christian (5-0-0) won Soka University's Peace Cup in Aliso Viejo, toppling Rancho Palos Verdes' Marymount, 2-1, in the title game.
WOMEN: Defending champs top Cal Lu
Cal Lutheran was beaten for the first time this season, falling to defending NCAA Division III champion Hardin-Simmons in a tight clash in Abilene, Texas.
Austin Ricker and Courtney Cramer scored on each side of halftime to lead the 14th-ranked Cowgirls (2-1-0) to a 2-0 victory. No. 12 Cal Lutheran (3-1-0) was coming off a 10-0 rout of Texas Lutheran.
In other women's action:
- Kylee Nicassio (Alta Loma/Los Osos HS) tallied twice as Cal Baptist (3-1-0) crushed College of Idaho, 4-0.
- Traci Lopez's first-half goals gave Pomona-Pitzer (2-0-0) a 2-0 win over visiting Biola, the NCAA Division III Sagehens' second shutout over NAIA opposition.
- Kiri Christiansen scored both goals in Marymount's 2-0 win at Soka.