UC Irvine, Long Beach State Look To #RaiseTheCup
It's a rivalry of epic proportions with a Big West Tournament title on the line.
It's been a few years, but this is not the first time these two squads have met in the championship match. In 2010 and 2011, the squads made two consecutive title game appearances and it would be Long Beach State to earn back-to-back championships, both in 1-0 shutout fashion. Will this year boast the same outcome for the 49ers? Or will the Anteaters earn the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament? Tune in Sunday afternoon at 1 pm on Fox Sports Prime Ticket to catch the action.
UC Irvine's Road to RAISING THE CUP
As junior Noel Baham put it, it all started then UC Irvine was picked to finish seventh in the Big West Conference Preseason Poll. "That lit a fire," she said. Determined to write a different story, UCI jumped out to an 8-1-0 record, its best mark to open a campaign since 1998. At 13-6-2 and 5-2-1 in league, the Anteaters clinched a spot in the Big West Tournament for the first time since 2013. This postseason marks the first minutes any current 'Eater will log in the Tournament after earning a No. 2 seed in 2016.
Irvine continued to make noise throughout the regular season, netting 32 goals for just the fourth time since 2000. The 32 scores are also the most in league. The Anteaters have also recorded the most assists this season of any Big West squad with 39, over 10 more than the next-best mark in conference (UC Santa Barbara, 26). The team's collective 103 points is also a league-best.
In dramatic fashion, UC Irvine advanced to the championship game after ending in a 1-1 double overtime draw versus defending Tournament champion, Cal State Fullerton. The Anteaters would go on to win 4-2 in penalty kicks on a make from junior Grayson Galbraith. Read the complete story HERE.
The Anteaters will make their fourth-appearance all-time in the Tournament tile game Sunday afternoon and look to earn their second championship and first since 1997. Although the 'Eaters claimed the title in the Tournamen'ts second year of its existence, no MVP was named that postseason. Should UCI come out with a victory Sunday and earn an MVP nod, it would be a program first.
ALL-BIG WEST FIRST TEAM
Noel Baham (JR) - Forward
Kiana Palacios (JR) - Midfielder
Kelsey Texeira (SR) - Defender
We caught up with junior Kiana Palacios earlier in the year, check out her interview HERE.
"We put everything into training and we leave everything on the field."
– Noel Baham
Long Beach State's Road to RAISING THE CUP
The Beach also claimed three premier Big West awards including Gonzales as Offensive Player of the Year.
Long Beach State is back. The 49ers will make their third-straight appearance in the Big West Tournament title game and are ready to #RaiseTheCup.
After what would appear to be a rocky start to the 2016 season, coach Mauricio Ingrassia said, "We had such a hard preseason that we started league with a little bit of a hangover. That really messes with you and your confidence. There was a lot to lose on our end, [but] it’s a process. We’re a much stronger team from every position and collectively now."
The Beach clinched a No. 4 seed after going 4-1-3 in league for 15 points. Junior Ashley Gonzales paced the 49ers with 10 scores on the year, the most in the Big West Conference, while she tallied a league-high 23 points.
Offensive Player of the Year: Ashley Gonzales
Midfielder of the Year: Mimi Rangel
Freshman of the Year: Chloe Froment
The 49ers are looking to claim their first Tournament crown since 2011, when the Beach met Irvine in the finals at Anteater Stadium. That year LBSU would go on to make a run in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Duke 2-0 in Durham, NC in the round of the Elite 8.
After three-straight title game appearances, it might seem as if this is Long Beach State's year. Led by seniors Ashton McKeown, 2014 Big West Goalkeeper of the Year, and Mimi Rangel, four-time Big West first-team honoree, the 49ers have experience on their side. Not to mention, they get to battle it out on their home turf at George Allen Field. McKeown will take a three-game shutout streak into Sunday finale and has only allowed two goals in the last six games.
Long Beach will make its sixth all-time appearance in the championship match and look to claim its third Tournament title.
“The thing everyone wishes is that they could play one more game.
We’ve got 90 minutes to look forward to.”
– Coach Mauricio Ingrassia