On Sunday, the unthinkable finally became reality when the Long Beach State women’s soccer team failed to qualify for the Big West Conference Tournament after its game against Cal State Northridge last Thursday.
A season that was supposed to be filled with triumph ultimately ended up being forgettable and flat-out disappointing.
After winning the tournament last season, the 49ers were labeled as sure-fire favorites to lift the trophy once again in the Big West preseason poll. However, myriad issues shattered the 49ers’ hopes of repeating as conference champions for the second year in a row.
But how exactly did this failure come to fruition? Untimely circumstances and poor performances proved to be too much for Long Beach to hurdle over, attributing to the team’s eventual downfall.
The biggest and ugliest failures were injuries. Players getting hurt is always the side of sports that no one wants to see. Unfortunately for the 49ers, this proved to be the center of the team’s demise in 2017.
Right off the bat, Long Beach lost senior forward Ashley Gonzales, its fourth all-time leading goalscorer, to a torn ACL just two games into the season.
The misfortune didn’t end there for the team, which also lost sophomore defensive standout Kaitlin Fregulia to a season-ending injury.
Head coach Mauricio Ingrassia credited injuries as the team’s biggest adversity of the season.
“The biggest difficulty for us this season was the curveball of untimely injuries,” Ingrassia said. “It felt like it was happening all in a row.”
Senior midfielder Jessica Vincent agrees with her head coach about the negative effect injuries had on the team.
“We had a lot of injuries that got in our way,” Vincent said. “We lost Ashley [Gonzales] and Kaitlin [Fregulia], so injuries were our catalyst.”
Injuries played a vital role in the shortcomings of Long Beach, but they didn’t end there.
The team was not as strong on the road as it was at home — especially not in Big West Conference play.
The 49ers failed to pick up a single victory on the road this season during conference play, losing and drawing two each.
That’s just two points out of 12 possible during away conference games.
This marked the first time since 2009 that Long Beach didn’t have an away win during Big West Conference Tournament play.
That’s eight years. Let that sink in for a minute.
Picking up points on the road is never an easy task, but it is required for success.
You cripple your team’s postseason hopes if you can’t find ways to win on the road.
The 49ers shot the ball a lot, with little success. Of their 234 attempts, less than 40 percent were on goal. The team as a whole only managed to register 93 shots on goal, 27 fewer than last year.
Also, no player on the team had more than four goals individually throughout the entire season. After netting 11 goals last season, Gonzales’ offensive talents simply could not be matched by any other player on the team.
All of these issues combined proved to be a recipe for disaster that the team did not find an answer for.
The 49ers will need better luck when it comes to injuries and better performances next season if they want to get back to the upper echelon of the Big West Conference.