The Long Beach State women’s soccer team currently sits in fifth place in the Big West Conference with three games remaining, and that’s a result of two draws in games the ‘Niners should have won.
Had the 49ers (8-5-2, 2-1-2 Big West) managed to score an additional goal against UC Davis and just one at all against Hawaii, they would be sitting comfortably in second place, where they were predicted to finish before the season began in the conference coaches poll.
Instead, the ‘Niners have underachieved so far in conference play, failing to win games they should have after proving their competitive and resilient capabilities in nonconference wins over ranked teams like Brigham Young and Texas Tech.
So far the 49ers have dropped only one conference game, when they lost to first-place Cal Poly in their conference opener.
But the ‘Niners didn’t quite rebound from that loss and soar through conference as they hoped to. Instead, they struggled to prove they’re a better team than those seventh- and eighth-place teams they tied with.
Comparing non-conference performances, the ‘Niners should have outmatched Cal Poly. The Mustangs lost six straight games in which they were outscored 21-1 before shutting out LBSU 2-0. Big West opponents have come on a lot softer against Cal Poly, as the Mustangs have outscored their opponents 13-6 in six games so far.
Cal State Fullerton, the team that was picked to finish first in conference this season, has experienced the same frustration the ‘Niners have so far.
Through the first five conference games, the Titans have allowed the fewest goals in conference with four, yet they trail LBSU in the standings by a point and sit at sixth place.
The Titans can attribute their place in the Big West to a tie with Cal State Northridge, a team that’s lost all four of its other conference matches. The Titans have also lost games to Cal Poly and UC Riverside.
Unlike the Titans, however, The Beach’s season isn’t really affected by its loss to Cal Poly. What has really prevented the ‘Niners from taking advantage within this year’s relatively weak Big West Conference are those two draws.
Hawaii has lost three games while the ‘Niners have lost only one, but the two teams are separated only by one point in the standings, which reveals how critical a tie can be for a team in games they should have otherwise won.
UC Davis has lost two of its four conference games so far while barely escaping winless CSUN with a double-overtime 1-0 victory.
Although it’s becoming more apparent in conference play, the 49ers’ struggle to win games they should isn’t a new problem.
The ‘Niners lost 1-0 to Northern Arizona in their first game of the season. NAU won just five games last year, including a mini three-game win streak during midseason.
After shutting LBSU out in the season opener, the Lumberjacks got hot and didn’t lose for another six games. But at the time, before either team had played a game on the season, The Beach was considerably favored to win because of its superior record to NAU’s the previous season.
The ‘Niners can find at least a gleam of optimism while finishing out the final week of the season, however. LBSU’s eight points might put the ‘Niners in fifth place currently, but three other Big West teams are currently tied for second place while leading the ‘Niners by only a point.
To reach the postseason, the 49ers will not only have to finish in fourth place or better. They will have to win against CSUN and UC Riverside in the final week of the regular season, two teams that they should beat.