Long Beach State Soccer

Maher, McDonald Carry Long Beach State Women’s Soccer To Victory

Long Beach Poly alum Imani McDonald and Wilson alum Sarah Maher were the leaders of their local high school girls’ soccer teams, and the Long Beach State seniors teamed up on Sunday at George Allen Field to help the Beach beat UC Santa Barbara 1-0.

Maher scored the game-winning goal in the 64th minute, and McDonald collected her fifth shutout of the season in goal with three saves. LBSU (8-4-2, 3-0-1) is now second in the Big West with 10 points, just one point behind UC Irvine. The Beach hosts the Anteaters on Sunday.

“Our team is in a good place and we’re taking care of business,” LBSU coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “I really felt like we were so competitive tonight. Everyone who stepped on the field, it was contagious.”

LBSU outshot UCSB 16-10, and 6-3 in shots on goal. The Beach put four shots on goal late in the first half after surviving an initial surge from the visitors. UCSB only had the one game this week, and LBSU was coming off of its overtime win on Thursday. The Gouaches haven’t won in Long Beach since 2001.

The game-winning goal came off of a set piece in the 64th minute on a yellow card foul drawn by senior Dana Fujikuni. Center back Chloe Froment came up to deliver the set piece service from about 40 yards out, and the senior sent the ball into the heart of the 18-yard box. Maher broke free to flick a header towards goal, and UCSB goalkeeper Hanna DeWeese got a hand on while diving, but it deflected into the net.

“I just knew I had to get something on it,” Maher said of her second goal this season, and fourth of her college career. “Chloe had a great kick to me. I tried to flick it and the goalie was out. I was lucky, and I knew I got a good touch on it.”

LBSU freshman Elysia Laramie was making her run towards goal as Maher flicked her header, and she ended up next to the ball after the deflection. Instead of kicking the ball and risking the chance of being called offsides, Laramie cleverly shielded UCSB defenders as the ball bounced in.

“I’m not if she knew that, but if she did, that’s the most heads up play a freshman has ever made,” Ingrassia said of Laramie. “She was impressive tonight.”

McDonald made all three of her saves in the second half, including a stop with her outstretched arm after coming off of her line. Maher also made an imperative last-ditch tackle in the box with less than 20 minutes to play.

“She’s quiet and it may look like she’s unassuming but she’s really competitive,” Ingrassia said of Maher. “She rises to the challenges. She didn’t have a prefect path to starting as a senior and playing the way she is playing now, but I think she grew and matured. This season I think she’s been our steadiest player. I’m really happy for her.”

LBSU has outscored its opponents 22-13 this season, and 6-3 in conference play.

“I can always count on my back four to lay themselves out and give it their all,” McDonald said. “We’ve been in this game before and we know how to finish it out.”

“We fight,” Maher said. “I know a lot of our players will risk everything to make the play, make the tackle and get the win.”

LBSU freshman Sierra Castles had a game-high four shots, and six different 49ers put shots on goal. Fujikuni drew another foul in the box after the goal, but Rola Badawiya bounced the resulting penalty kick off of the post.

The Beach is still a Top-50 team in RPI, and visits UC Riverside on Thursday.

“Having a super tough preseason like we do definitely helps us coming into conference,” McDonald said. “These are hard-fought, heart-filled games that are decided by literally inches.”

VIDEO: Long Beach State vs. UCSB, Women’s Soccer

PHOTOS: Long Beach State vs. UCSB, Women’s Soccer

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.