Los Angeles Soccer: Marco Ruvalcaba
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.
Top-seeded Redlands and No. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps romped to easy victories in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men's soccer tournament openers Wednesday night to set up a showdown for a berth in the NCAA Division III championship bracket.
Charles Izydorek (Redlands/Arrowhead Christian Academy) scored his 13th goals of the season just before halftime, then set up Alex Laughton as Redlands (18-3-0) pulled away to a 3-0 victory over visiting Pomona-Pitzer (10-9-0). Cody Carlson (Burbank/Burbank HS) scored his 12th for the Bulldogs, who will be home for Saturday's tournament title game.
Connor Doyle (Hidden Hills/Calabasas HS) scored twice and drew a penalty kick for a third goal to lead Claremont (13-5-1) in a 4-0 rout of Whittier (9-9-0), setting up a rematch of last year's tournament final, won by the Stags.
Redlands, ranked 15th in the Division III poll, won its second successive SCIAC regular-season title, going 12-0 in conference play with two victories over Claremont -- 3-0 at home and 3-1 away.
In other men's action:
- UC Irvine clinched a share of the Big West Conference title when Jesse Vega (Whittier/La Serna HS) quickly answered a UC Davis strike to give visiting Cal State Fullerton (7-6-5) a 1-1 draw. Dan Reese provided a 70th-minute lead for Davis (5-3-1 BWC), which would win a tiebreaker with UCI (6-3-1 BWC) for the top seed in the conference tournament if it beats UC Riverside in its regular-season finale. Vega scored less than three minutes later -- and just 48 seconds after Mark Vasquez (Fullerton/Whittier Christian HS) was red-carded, leaving the Titans a man down. Two more red cards, one for each side, were issued in overtime.
A scoreless draw was enough to give UC Irvine command of the Big West Conference race.
The ninth-ranked Anteaters (13-4-1) held off a late Cal State Northridge push in the Valley to notch their seventh shutout of the season and improve to 5-2-1 in the Big West, giving them a one-point lead over UC Davis (5-3), which lost at UC Santa Barbara. The Matadors are 7-7-2.
UC Irvine has two games remaining -- Saturday at home against UC Riverside and Tuesday at Cal Poly -- and likely will need victories in both to claim the conference crown.
In other menīs action:
- Tim Pontius (Yorba Linda/Servite HS) scored twice to lead UC Santa Barbara (10-5-1) to a 3-1 win over UC Davis, knocking the Aggies to second place in the Big West.
- Cesar Diaz Pizarro (Chino/Ayala HS) scored in the 65th minute to give UC Riverside (8-5-3) a 1-1 Big West draw with visiting Cal State Fullerton (7-5-4). Oscar Aguero (Anaheim/Katella HS) tallied in the first half for the Titans.
- Gabe Ramirez (Pasadena/Crescenta Valley HS) set up goals by Evan Keny-Guyer and Richie Marquez (Pomona/Bloomington HS) as Redlands (16-3-0), the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion, romped to a 3-1 victory at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (8-4-1).
UC Santa Barbara transfer Christian Ramirez scored his sixth and seventh goals of the weekend to lead Concordia University in a 5-1 NAIA romp Monday over Rancho Palos Verdes' Marymount College in Irvine.
Ramirez (Garden Grove/La Quinta), who has eight goals in four games, set a school record with five goals, along with two assists, in Friday's 10-0 rout of William Jessup. He also scored in a 1-0 victory last weekend at Embry-Riddle (Ariz.)
The former youth-soccer star -- a Cal South Player of the Year and ODP Region IV captain who played for Irvine Strikers, Pateadores and San Diego Surf -- scored one goal in 24 games over two seasons at UCSB before arriving at Concordia this summer.
Concordia is 3-1-0. Marymount, after three losses to teams from the powerhouse Golden State Athletic Conference, is 1-3-0.
In other men's action:
- Marco Ruvalcaba (La Mirada/La Mirada HS) scored two goals and assisted a third as Biola (3-0-0) crunched visiting Whittier, 4-0.
- Oktay Bulut scored twice to lead Azusa Pacific (3-1-0) a 3-1 victory over Rocky Mountain (Mont.) at conference rival Westmont's tournament in Santa Barbara.
In women's action:
- Azusa Pacific (3-0-1), ranked second in NAIA (but with a victory over No. 1 Lee), was held to a 0-0 draw at NCAA Division III Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (0-0-2).
- Concordia (Ore.), the No. 3 NAIA team, beat No. 9 The Master's (3-2-0) as Alex Thomas and Alex Blalock scored goals.
- Kate Lilly twice gave Chapman (0-1-1) leads, but Melanie Gaither answered both as George Fox claimed a 2-2 draw in Orange.