With less than a minute left in the final game of the regular season, UC Santa Barbara senior forward Claire Grouwinkel scored a game-winning goal against Long Beach State’s women’s soccer team that their season on Sunday, Oct. 31.
An early set-piece goal by LBSU redshirt senior defender Kaitlin Fregulia seemed to steer the team in the right direction to earn a spot in the Big West tournament semifinals.
But with 20 minutes remaining, the Gauchos equalized through freshman midfielder O’Callahan Liu and sparked a last-minute comeback that left The Beach out of the playoffs after a 2-1 loss at home.
“I think it’s the end of a very difficult year, the end of a tough 18 months,” said Mauricio Ingrassia, LBSU women’s soccer head coach. “It’s unfortunate to finish this way.“
Junior forward Lena Silano, who had six game-winning goals this season, had four of LBSU’s 10 shots, two of which were on goal and saved by Evann Smith, UCSB’s junior goalkeeper.
A 1-0 loss to Cal Poly on Thursday meant LBSU faced a do-or-die situation against the Gauchos, who themselves were playing for an outside chance to sneak into the final playoff seed with a win.
“We decided this was the quarterfinal of the Big West tournament,” UCSB head coach Paul Stumpf said about his team’s approach against LBSU. “So when the first [goal] came, we were going ‘ok, phew, we can relax a little bit. we can play a little bit.’ But it felt like we continued to have a little of the momentum so we just kind of kept pressing and finally got the go-ahead.”
Just four days before the game and with two games remaining, LBSU was in place to host the tournament as the regular season’s No. 1 seed. LBSU needed to at least tie one game for an invite to the tournament.
“We had the ball [in the attacking half], and we threw the ball inside to their player,” Ingrassia said about a crucial, late turnover. “That’s how it goes sometimes but my seniors are incredible, they deserved more out of this year but I’m very proud of them.”
Ingrassia will have 28 players on this year’s roster eligible to return with junior captain Elysia Laramie set to be available following season-ending ACL surgery last April.
“It’s for sure hard to let it all go,” Fregulia, who played the final game of her LBSU soccer career said. “You just never know when it can be your last and even today, it could have pushed me forward another game or two or it could have been my last. So take each moment and each day.”