Los Angeles Soccer: Veronica O'Brien
As he prepared his Long Beach State women's soccer team for something truly historic, Mauricio Ingrassia figured what better way to illustrate what the 49ers have accomplished -- and what remains in their reach -- than to show off a little living history.
So off they went, upon flying into North Carolina for Friday's NCAA Division I quarterfinal at thid-ranked Duke, to visit Anson Dorrance, architect of the most dominant dynasty in American sports history.
Dorrance, with a nearly never-ending stream of legends -- Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, April Heinrichs, Carla Overbeck, Tisha Venturini, Lorrie Fair, Lindsay Tarpley, Lori Chalupny, Heather O'Reilly, Tobin Heath -- has guided North Carolina to 21 national championships and fueled the U.S. women's national team's dominance in the women's game.
“Four our girls, that's history,” said Ingrassia, whose 49ers (18-5-1) have won eight in a row, seven by shutout, en route to the Big West Conference tournament title, a first-round NCAA “upset” of No. 7 Pepperdine, victories over Miami and San Diego and to a wholly unexpected spot in the elite eight. “If you ask [female] college players around the country if they ever thought about playing at North Carolina, you'd see a lot of hands, and our program isn't any different.”
So Ingrassia's charges oohed and ahhed at all the silverware and championship banners and mementos of those icons, checked out the facilities and spend a little time with Dorrance, the winningest coach in the American game, any level, anywhere.
Now they head into a battle with a Duke team that's 20-3-1, has a vibrant attack led by freshman Kelly Cobb and sophomores Kaitlyn Kerr and Mollie Pathman and an outstanding backline anchored by sophomore Natasha Anasi. The smart money has the Blue Devils in the Dec. 4 final against No. 1 Stanford.
Nothing is expected of Long Beach State, which hadn't won in two previous NCAA appearances. Now they sit one very difficult win from a College Cup final appearance.
“The goal for the team was to get to the sweet 16 or better,” said Ingrassia, whose team has advanced further than North Carolina, defending champion Notre Dame and perennial powers Santa Clara, Portland, UCLA and Florida. “Once we got to the sweet 16, we got the team together and said, 'Define what 'better' means to you. They came up with some pretty good and pretty powerful answers, so we redefined our goal.”
UC Riverside's women's soccer team won one game and scored three goals in 2010. The Highlanders matched that Friday night.
Aaren Casimiro (Murrieta/Chaparral HS) and Deborah Musa (La Verne/Bonita HS) scored first-half goals two minutes apart and Andrea Morales added a second-half tally as UC Riverside (1-1-1) routed Mississippi State, 3-0, in its annual Women's Soccer Invitational.
It's a big step forward following last year's 1-14-3 campaign, in which UCR was outscored, 25-3, and after five seasons of decline since going 11-4-6 and playing in the NCAA tournament in 2005.
Head coach Veronica O'Brien, who took charge when the Highlanders made the jump to Division I in 2001, posted double-digit victories in five straight seasons, through 2006, but her teams have won just seven Big West Conference games in five years and is 1-13-2 the past two.
She's got nine starters back and loads of newcomers -- 17 freshmen are on the roster, with midfielder Brianna Gonzalez (Victorville/Sultana HS) and redshirt goalkeeper Jessica Olafsen in the starting lineup Friday -- as the rebuild begins in earnest.
UCR meets San Jose State in Sunday's tournament finale. The Spartans lost, 2-1, in overtime to No. 13 UC Irvine in the event's opener. Amanda Hardeman (Laguna Niguel/Dana Hills HS and Santiago Canyon College) scored the 101st-minute winner, a blast that ricocheted off the crossbar, off goalkeeper Meghan Maiwald's back and into the net.
WILLIAMS TOPS TITANS: Freshman Lynn Williams scored in the final minute to force overtime and again in the extra period, lifting Pepperdine to a 2-1 victory at Cal State Fullerton. The Waves (3-0-0) rallied quickly after Stacey Cox (Simi Valley/Royal HS) scored a would-be winner in the 84th minute for the Titans (1-1-1).