After adding 11 new players and embarking on a trip to Paris, the Long Beach State women’s soccer team is refreshed and ready to compete for another Big West championship in the 2019 season.
Head coach Mauricio Ingrassia filled the roster with talent from local schools and other countries in hopes to build a team that would perform at the same level as last year after suffering the loss of key seniors and players transferring out.
“The dynamic of the team last season was different because we had seven seniors in starting positions,” Ingrassia said. “They had this constant drive everyday to make it last as long as possible. It’s just a matter of recreating that mentality that we had last year… because talent-wise, I feel like we are just as strong or maybe even a little better.”
With gameplay beginning Sunday, the Beach spent a majority of the summer putting in work on the field. The most notable part of the off-season conditioning was a week-long trip to Paris. During the trip, players were given the opportunity to compete against international teams as well as pay a visit to famous landmarks.
“I think when you spend so much time together in unique circumstances, you build trust and you build chemistry,” Ingrassia said. “Instead of being away from each other for four months, we got to go on a trip and play some quality opponents.”
The Beach is creating a buzz among the Big West coaches in the Big West with exciting new members coming aboard and seasoned veterans returning. The team is predicted to clinch first place in the conference after receiving five votes in its favor.
One of the notable transfers is junior Marta Alemany Sanchez, who is an experienced goalkeeper born and raised in Barcelona, Spain. She joins the team with fellow transfers sophomore defender Myah Baksh, junior midfielder Amanda Jones, and junior forward Jada Thomas.
While there are many transfers on the roster, the incoming freshmen make up a majority of the new faces. The freshman class includes goalkeeper Morgan Houston-Shepherd, midfielders Aleea Caceres, Jillian Hiraga, and Sam Encarnado, forward Alexis Komisza, and defenders Amanda Meichtry, and Emily Jauregui.
One of the most exciting returning players is redshirt junior defender Kaitlin Fregulia, who was unable to participate last year due to a severe knee injury. During her junior season in 2017, Fregulia was named the Big West Defensive Player of the Year and was selected for the Big West All-Conference First Team.
“[My injury] ate away at me… I never thought it would happen to me,” Fregulia said. “I’ve been waiting for this year for a long time.”
Continuing their roles in the midfield positions are seniors Taylor Bistline and Katie Pingel, who have accumulated accolades throughout their college careers. Pingel was selected to the All-Big West second team in both 2017 and 2018, and Bistline was an All-Big West honorable mention in 2018.
After holding their own as freshman in 2018, sophomore forwards Sierra Castles and Elysia Laramie will lead on the attacking end. Both contributed to the scoring during the exhibition games in Paris, and Laramie was recently selected for the Pre-Season All-Conference team.
The Big West is chock-full of strong teams, but Long Beach State’s biggest competition is UCSB, who was voted into the number two slot in the conference rankings. These votes mirror the results of last year, in which the Beach defeated the Gauchos in the Big West tournament finals.
The Beach kicks off its first game at George Allen Field at 6 p.m. Sunday against UCLA.