Los Angeles Soccer: National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association
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.
Amanda Hardeman's goal in the 88th minute couldn't save UC Irvine. It just delayed the pain.
The Anteaters twice rallied from deficits Friday night but fell short in the tiebreaker and were eliminated by visiting San Diego in the first round of the NCAA Division I women's tournament.
The Toreros (12-7-1) outfired UCI, 5-3, on penalties to advance to next weekend's second-round clash against the winner of Saturday night's game between No. 2 UCLA and New Mexico.
Irvine (14-4-3) was 90 seconds from defeat when Hardeman (Laguna Niguel/Dana Hills HS and Santiago Canyon College) struck from Dana Sanderlin's cross to force a 20-minute sudden-death overtime.
Mariah Butera scored in the fourth minute to provide a lead for San Diego, the West Coast Conference co-champion, and Taylor Housley restored the advantage late in the first half after the 23nd-minute header by Zoya Farzaneh (Irvine/Irvine HS), from Cami Privett's pass, pulled the Anteaters even.
The Toreros were in charge of the tiebreaker from the start, taking a 2-0 lead after goalkeeper Courtney Parsons stopped Judy Christopher (Ontario/Upland HS) on Irvine's first attempt. The next three Anteaters -- Sanderlin (Upland/Upland HS), CoCo Goodson and Zuri Walker -- converted their attempts, but San Diego made all five of its shots. Stephanie Ochs clinched the victory.
In other women's action:
- Azusa Pacific (13-2-2) won Golden State Athletic Conference tournament title, outfiring host Point Loma Nazarene, 4-2, on penalties following a scoreless tie in the final. APU, No. 5 in the NAIA rankings, converted on four of five attempts -- Natalie Sun's shot was decisive -- and goalkeeper Alexa Douglas made two stops to thwart the No. 4 Sea Lions (18-1-2).