Two consecutive regular season Big West Conference titles have yet to result into the Long Beach State women’s soccer team’s first NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Big West Tournament is one step on the path to redemption.
“Every year we feel like we do well in the conference and we beat all the teams that we play,” senior goalkeeper Liz Ramos said. “Then, we get to the [conference tournament] and the same teams that we beat in conference like two weeks earlier, we lose to. So now it’s about getting that revenge and getting those games back.”
LBSU lost to Cal Poly in double-overtime in the 2006 semifinals after winning the program’s first Big West title, but last season’s first-round upset to the same Mustangs cost the 49ers an NCAA Tournament bid, which more than likely could’ve been secured with just one Big West Tournament victory.
“A lot of that last playoff game is mental for us,” Ramos said. “If anybody knew how the game went last season, we had like [21 shots to three]. It’s all about having that killer instinct, like [head coach Mauricio Ingrassia] always says, and really putting it away and making our opportunities count.”
“To not make the NCAAs would just kill all of us, so that’s our ultimate goal. We want to just have that automatic bid. We don’t want to have to watch the TV and worry about anything.”
Entering this season, the goal is the same but some frustration has been added along the way.
“[The NCAA Tournament] has been in the back of our minds every year,” senior forward/midfielder Dana Farquhar said. “Every year we win our regular season title, but we can’t get out [of the conference tournament]. It’s really frustrating because we have the team, there’s no doubt about it. We just couldn’t get past that little bump in the road.”
The mental aspect and simply focusing appears to be the mutual solution to redeeming last season’s disappointment.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and especially a lot of focus,” senior midfielder Hayley Bolt said. “Grind it out. If you’re tired in one practice, or you don’t want to wake up in the morning, just focus on the big picture. If we do that as a whole, then our talent and our character will get us through.”
It’s not just the seniors that want to turn four years of work into an NCAA Tournament appearance. Ingrassia has yet to coach his team into the tournament but said it’s just as simple as winning games.
“[The team] is focused to take it one game at a time,” he said. “If there is an urgency, it’s a healthy urgency [to make the tournament.]”
Entering his fifth season, Ingrassia has compiled a 45-26-7 record and has turned the 49ers into one of the elite teams in the Big West. Success is nothing new to the head coach, who once guided nearby Long Beach City College to five state championships, two undefeated seasons and two national titles before arriving at The Beach in 2004.
With 10 seniors on the roster and Ingrassia’s first recruiting class graduating after the season, the time is now.
“This is a big year for us since the majority of the team are upperclassmen,” Bolt said. “I think we all have that desire and that want to finally do it. This is our last chance, our last year.”