Long Beach State women’s soccer fans began to count down from 10 as the last seconds of the game against Northridge grew near. When the time expired, the 49ers jumped up with excitement and held hands as they took a final bow in front of a crowd of 591.
After a senior ceremony full of tears, flowers and balloons, Long Beach (10-5-3, 5-1-2 Big West) defeated CSUN (6-9-1, 2-6-0 Big West) 3-1 Sunday in its final Big West matchup at George Allen Field.
“It’s emotional on senior day,” senior forward Ashley Gonzales said. “I just knew I had to come out, play for the team and get that win so we can go the conference tournament.”
With this win, Long Beach State secured first place and the regular season Big West title after missing the playoffs last season. The team accumulated 17 points total, putting them just one point above UCSB, who faced Cal Poly Sunday and tied in double overtime.
The 49ers finished the game with 13 shots and the Matadors ended with 10. Long Beach out shot every team in the Big West besides UC Riverside.
Twelve minutes into the game, Gonzales centered herself perfectly in front of the net and tapped in a pass from junior midfielder Katie Pingel, scoring the first goal that helped launch the 49ers into first place in the Big West.
“This was our last game of conference so I knew I had to go out with a bang,” Gonzales said.
In the 31st minute, junior defender Chloe Froment sent a high corner kick into Matador goalbox, and both teams fought to get a touch on the ball in the midst of traffic. Northridge freshman goalkeeper Amanda Delgado made an attempt to punch the ball out, but it slipped off of her gloves and into the net. This gave the 49ers an insurance goal and put them in the lead 2-0 in the first half.
The 49ers had little time to celebrate when the Matadors retaliated just over a minute after the goal by Froment. Sophomore forward Amy Aquino flicked the ball into the net, bringing the score to 2-1 and the Matadors one goal closer.
“We stayed strong together,” Froment said. “We told each other it won’t happen again.”
A handball just outside the Matador goalbox drew a freekick for Long Beach in the 58th minute. The crowd held their breath as Sophomore forward Kaylee Ramirez sent the kick over the defensive wall and into the top right corner of the net, giving the 49ers a safety cushion and lifting the score to 3-1.
The Matadors continued to take shots, but senior goalkeeper Imani McDonald held them at one goal. She had two crucial saves, one in each half.
“I want to point out Imani McDonald as a leader,” head coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “Imani was tremendous in the last game and this game in terms of trying to give the group the oomph that we needed.”
Long Beach will head to Irvine for the start of the Big West tournament 5 p.m. Thursday to take on UC Davis.
Watch our video coverage of the game here:
VIDEO | Jose Ahumada & German Rodriguez