Los Angeles Soccer: Jazz Strozier
IRVINE -- Long Beach State is returning to the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years after knocking off No. 24 UC Irvine in Sunday afternoon's Big West Conference women's tournament final.Jazz Strozier scored in the 13th minute and the 49ers (15-5-1) backed it up with an organized defense led by goalkeeper Kaitlyn Gustaves and center back Alex Balcer, the tournament MVP.
It was the second straight year Long Beach State has won the title at Anteater Field after UCI captured the regular-season title.
“I thought it was a great day for Long Beach State,” head coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “We came in with a game plan. We executed. ... [UC Irvine is] a very good team.
“We had to earn every inch that we got, but I think hats off to my team this year, because last year I told their coach I thought they were was the best team, when we shook hands, and I feel like this year we had the best team in the Big West.”
Strozier (Ventura/Buena HS and Ventura College) knocked home a corner kick from Loyola Marymount transfer Kelsey Wilson (San Clemente/San Clemente HS) that was first headed by Balcer and Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS). It ended a 435-minute shutout streak for the Anteaters, who had shut out their previous four and six of the previous seven foes.
Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) nearly added to the lead seven minutes into the second half with a floater that Anteaters goalkeeper Jennifer Randazzo tipped onto the crossbar and away.
UCI (14-4-2), which is expected to receive an at-large berth when the 64-team field is unveiled Monday, nearly pulled even on a 60th-minute free kick by All-American CoCo Goodson, a blistering shot that slipped past the 49ers wall and required a diving save by Gustaves (Long Beach/Wilson HS).
Long Beach shifted from its customary 4-3-3 alignment to a 4-4-2 in the second half, with defender-turned-forward Nicole Hubbard (Lakewood/Mayfair HS) moving into midfield, then dropping deeper, right in front of the back four, in the closing minutes.
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.
Irvine withstood a constant barrage from Texas A&M, which rolled up a 21-5 advantage in shots -- 13-1 in the second half -- and 11-2 on corner kicks. A solid defensive effort backed by freshman Jennifer Randazzo's seven saves forged the shutout.
UCI's women have beaten only one team ranked higher the Aggies, upsetting No. 10 Hartford in 1995.
In other games:
- Freshman Brianne Medved's first collegiate goal lifted Loyola Marymount (2-0-0) to a 1-0 win at Texas State, completing the Lions' perfect trip to the Lone Star State.
- Stephanie Ochs' hat trick led San Diego in a 3-1 rout of USC (0-2-0). Pierce College transfer Erica Vangsness (Los Angeles/University HS) tallied for the Women's of Troy with five seconds to go.
- Sophomore Nikki McCants (Corona/Santiago HS) scored twice, matching her freshman total, to carry Cal State Fullerton (1-0-1) past Long Island, 3-1.
- Jazz Strozier (Ventura/Buena HS and Ventura College) scored and assisted Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS) in the first eight minutes as Long Beach State (2-0-0) romped past Sacramento State, 3-0, in its home opener.
- Michelle Manning (Calabasas/Agoura HS) and freshman Lynn Williams tallied for Pepperdine (2-0-0), which beat Arizona, 2-0, in its hjome opener.
- Senior Kayde Hensley's first career goal was enough for UC Riverside (0-1-1) to claim a 1-1 draw against Idaho at UNLV's Rebel Classic.