Mauricio Ingrassia has honed in the recipe for a successful women’s soccer program at Long Beach State, and a major ingredient is a challenging schedule. Once again, the 49ers have a nationally relevant slate of matches this season, starting in August at 2017 NCAA Runner-Up UCLA.
“This is really what Long Beach State needs,” Ingrassia said. “We want to be the best, so we want to play the best.”
LBSU will play three teams that ended last season ranked in the Top 25, and five teams that made the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re consistently performing with a high RPI,” Ingrassia said. “This (schedule) is the way we improve as much as we can, against the best competition available to us.”
The exhibition season begins Aug. 8 when LBSU hosts Cal Baptist at George Allen Field. Because of a late schedule change, the 49ers also will face Big West Conference rivals UC Irvine at the Great Park on Aug. 11.
After visiting UCLA in the first regular season match, LBSU hosts SMU in the Aug. 19 home opener. Notable nonconferece opponents Auburn (Sept. 2) and St. John’s (Sept. 7) also are coming to George Allen Field.
LBSU will host Cal Poly, UCSB and UC Irvine at home in Big West play, and closes out the regular season at home against CSUN on Oct. 28.
The art of scheduling is a process that starts three years in advance, but Ingrassia is confident that this team can handle the challenging campaign because of a promising spring season.
“We only dropped one game in the spring, but the thing that impressed me the most was this team’s work ethic,” Ingrassia said. “It was a longer but productive spring, and I feel like our team matured though it.”
Ingrassia said his squad has depth at every position, and he’s happy to welcome back forward Ashley Gonzales. The 2016 Big West Offensive Player of the Year suffered a season-ending knee injury against UCLA last year, and received a medical redshirt.
LBSU is also welcoming freshmen Sierra Castles and Elysia Laramie, who were two of 24 players invited to the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team training camp at the Elite Athletic Training Center in May at Chula Vista.
Castles played both forward and midfield for Beach WPSL of the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Laramie is a defender and forward who had 15 goals and 13 assists in 24 matches as a junior at Simi Valley High.