Near the end of the 2018 season, the Long Beach State women’s soccer season reached its peak, then came crashing down.
Going into Friday’s game I knew it would be an extremely tough match, but there was a glimmer of hope. Long Beach was on a three-game win streak, and was performing exceptionally well in comparison to last year’s squad, who finished with a 9-6-3 record and took fifth place in the Big West.
At the end of its season it had the confidence, support and drive needed to go far in the NCAA tournament. So what went wrong?
It all boils down to this: bigger and well-known schools have money and a large selection of athletes to choose from. Potential college athletes are drawn to them because of their reputation, which gives them the ability to choose from players who have played on national teams or earned the top earnings in high school.
When people think of the top sports schools in the country, they typically don’t list Long Beach as one. But this year, the 49ers began to get recognition and were nearing the top 25 on the United Soccer Coaches Poll for a majority of their 2018 run.
The 49ers were underdogs, but proved that they were able to compete with the “big teams”, and consistently performed well and held their own.
Going into next year’s season, the team will suffer the loss of senior top scorers forward Ashley Gonzales and midfielder Dana Fujikuni, and will have to rebuild its offense. Thankfully, junior midfielders Katie Pingel and Taylor Bistline will be be making a return after showing tremendous offensive effort this year. If former Defensive Player of the Year Kaitlin Fregulia makes her way back to the pitch, along with defenders Chloe Froment and Sarah Pilster, the team will have a solid back end.
The 49ers will have three more years to work with freshmen forwards Sierra Castles and Elysia Laramie, who each had a great start to their career. By the time they are seniors they will have more experience and dominate the field.
With these position changes and new players coming in, Long Beach has the potential to make another NCAA tournament run in the 2019 season.