Long Beach State women’s soccer has yet to play a game that impacts the 2019 Big West conference standings, but that will change Thursday when the Beach face off against the Cal Poly Mustangs at the Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The caveat to the Beach’s 2-7 record so far this season has been its strength of schedule. Long Beach has played some of the best teams in the nation, including three top-10 opponents. Although no Big West team is nationally ranked, the conference presents challenges of its own.
“It’s a difficult conference,” head coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “Every game is like a final and every team is very strong at their home [field].”
ICYMI, Elysia Laramie scored twice in 30 seconds during last night's 2-1 comeback win over Cal Poly! Here's the unedited footage of both goals. Enjoy this on repeat all weekend 😎 #GoBeach pic.twitter.com/AVETqJ7dAz
— LongBeachStateSoccer (@LBSUSoccer) October 4, 2019
Long Beach will start out conference play with a two-game road trip. The third game for the Beach will be at home against Fullerton, the only Big West team currently receiving votes in national ranking polls.
A poor start in the two matches leading up to the matchup with Fullerton would put the Beach in a difficult spot against a tough opponent.
Fortunately for Long Beach, the upcoming road trip provides an opportunity. The matchup at Cal Poly looks promising, as the Mustangs have struggled to score all year while also giving up 1.8 goals per game. The Beach will then travel to Santa Barbara to face the Gauchos, one of the few teams in the Big West with a losing record at home this season.
Given Long Beach’s struggles this year, this lighter schedule to begin Big West play provides an opportunity to get back on track. The Beach has not been able to consistently finish the scoring chances it has generated, and the team has often found itself playing from behind as a result.
“Our transitions need to be faster,” senior forward/midfielder Katie Pingel said.
Playing faster is something that is easier said than done. Long Beach junior forward Kayla Cannon, who is known for her incredible speed, is likely out for the year with a knee injury according to Ingrassia, which may limit the team’s offense.
“You’re not going to be able to replace [Cannon], but we hope we have enough [depth] to reinvent how we play a little bit,” Ingrassia said.
Long Beach often utilized Cannon’s speed to get behind opposing defenses down the sideline before sending crosses into the middle. Without Cannon, the Beach will be forced to pass or dribble through the middle of defenses and beat defenders one-on-one with high-level dribbling skills.
The challenges facing the Beach as it moves into conference play cannot be denied, but the experience gained through the strength of the opponents they’ve played so far should pay dividends, according to Ingrassia.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll be successful,” Ingrassia said.
Long Beach State faces Cal Poly on Thursday at 7 p.m. in San Luis Obispo.