Long Beach State women’s soccer saw its playoff hopes dashed Thursday night, losing to the CSUN Matadors 1-0 on a windy night in Northridge.
“It was heartbreaking,” head coach Mauricio Ingrassia said.
The Beach (4-12, 2-5 Big West) struggled early in the season when it played most of its home games. The Beach rounded into form late, but the tough road schedule proved too challenging to overcome.
“We gave up the early goal and you just can’t do that on the road in this conference,” Ingrassia said. “Not in a decisive game.”.
Sophomore midfielder Sierra Castles nearly gave the Beach an early lead, launching a deep strike towards the top corner in the 11th minute, but CSUN sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Delgato made a diving save to her left.
“If [that shot] would have gone in it would have changed everything,” Ingrassia said.
Castles scored on a similar long-distance effort in the Beach’s last home game against Riverside.
“Sierra’s been doing well finding her form [of] late and finding her shot from distance,” Ingrassia said. “I’m really excited for her future.”
Delgato’s save proved pivotal. In the 17th minute, CSUN junior midfielder Avery DeWitt arched a freekick into the penalty box from the right sideline in midfield. The cross was deflected to redshirt junior forward Bethany Fitzsimmons, who trapped the ball while facing away from goal, chipping it to her left and rifling a shot under the crossbar for a 1-0 Matador lead.
“The goal we gave up was very disappointing,” Ingrassia said. “We left somebody unmarked. When you’re in a deciding game on the road you can’t shoot yourself in the foot like that. It just becomes way too much pressure.”
During the first half, the Matadors maintained longer possessions in the attacking third than the Beach. Often under pressure, Long Beach defenders were forced to clear the ball out of bounds or commit fouls, allowing the Matadors to keep possession and chip away valuable minutes.
“We’ve had trouble with committing unnecessary fouls,” Ingrassia said.
The Beach did have some long attacking possessions late in the first half, though they did not generate any shots on goal as the swarming Matador defense shut down any chances.
With the season on the line and down by a goal, Long Beach came blazing out of the gates in the second half, but still struggled to generate shots on goal. Its aggressiveness forced CSUN into fouls often, but the Beach couldn’t capitalize on the resulting free kicks.
As the half wore on, Long Beach targeted sophomore defender/forward Elysia Laramie with crosses into the box. Laramie leads the Beach in scoring and was defended tightly by the Matadors who denied her the final touch she was looking for.
“We couldn’t break them down in the final third,” Ingrassia said. “We didn’t make a play in their box.”
Junior forward Kaylee Ramirez nearly scored a fluke goal in the 63rd minute when she sent a cross into the box from 35 yards that trickled through Delgato’s legs. Under pressure from Laramie, Delgato recovered, falling onto the ball.
Despite dominating possession time in the second half, the Beach was shutout, as CSUN closed the door on its chances for the postseason.
“I do feel like we’ve gained valuable experience,” Ingrassia said. “I feel good about us and who we have coming back [next season].”
The Beach will face Hawaii in the final game of the season at 2 p.m., Sunday at George Allen Field.