By Jarrod Castillo Athletics Editor
As fog dissipated and the sun began to shine on George Allen Field, Long Beach State (5-1-2 Big West, 10-5-3 overall) had one goal in mind: defeat the Matadors of CSUN (2-6-0 Big West, 6-9-1 overall).
Before the game, the Beach sat in second place with 14 points as UCI and UCSB tied for first with 15. Because UCI completed their season and UCSB had a game to play against Cal Poly, the Beach needed both the win and UCSB to tie or lose to get first place.
To start, the Beach came out aggressive, with senior forward Ashley Gonzales looking to score early. Although her shot in the second minute was saved by Matador goalkeeper Amanda Delgado, Gonzales wouldn’t have to wait long.
Battling with a Matador defender, senior midfielder Rocio Rodriguez skied the ball over her head and onto the feet of junior forward Katie Pingel. Pingel crossed it to Gonzales and with a strike of her left foot, the ball quickly found its way to the back left corner of the net, making it 1-0.
“I just felt like I was back,” Gonzales said. “This is our last game of conference so I know how to go out with a bang.”
Gonzales’ goal was the 35th of her career and her aggressiveness and work ethic was what head coach Mauricio Ingrassia liked to see.
“No one works harder than she does, that’s been her trademark,” Ingrassia said. “For her to get that first goal is very fitting on Senior Day and then for us to win 3-1 on her back and on the senior’s backs is very fitting.”
Nineteen minutes later, the Beach would score another goal thanks to a header by freshman Elysia Laramie off a cross from senior defender Chloe Froment.
With CSUN down 2-0, sophomore Amy Aquino took it into her hands to score a goal to make it 2-1 less than two minutes later in the 33rd minute. The score would remain 2-1 at the end of the first half as both teams shot the ball evenly, with Long Beach having seven shots to CSUN’s five.
In the second half, the Beach looked for a knockout blow that would put the game out of reach. In the 59th minute, Long Beach State got their answer.
After being fouled just outside the box, sophomore forward Kaylee Ramirez lined herself up and kicked the ball into the back right corner of the net to make it 3-1.
Even though the Beach had a two goal lead, Ingrassia said that the team had to be careful.
“We’ve had two goal leads but we’ve been squandering them all conference,” he said. “At least we kept it and now we need that knockout punch, it’s that killer instinct. It’s good to continue to improve [this late in the year].”
Although it was nice to get the 3-1 win, Ingrassia also said that a lot of credit has to be given to senior goalkeeper Imani McDonald.
“Imani was tremendous in the latter part of the last game and this game in terms of trying to give the group that extra ‘umph’ that we needed,” he said.
Froment shared that sentiment.
“She’s a leader on the team so it always feels great to have her in the goal. We have a lot of trust for her,” Froment concluded.
With the Beach beating the Matadors and UCSB, and Cal Poly tying in their final game, Long Beach State was able to leapfrog for first place with 17 points.