This Long Beach State women’s soccer season has been defined by dramatic one-goal games. Seven of their 13 contests have been decided by one goal, and they’ve won four of them, but they were on the wrong side of a 1-0 overtime loss to UC Irvine on Thursday night at George Allen Field.
Kiera Smeenge scored the game-winner for UCI (8-4-0, 3-1-0) in the 97th minute to knock LBSU (6-5-2, 3-1-1) out of first place in the Big West Conference.
“I thought we started off slow and got better as the game went on,” LBSU coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “We knew it was going to take one play in overtime and they made it.”
The Beach was outshot 11-6 and only had a pair of shots on goal but looked like it was primed for the victory with a slew of scoring chances in the second half.
“We just have to take care of the little things early and the results will come after that,” LBSU junior Charlotte Guillory said. “It was never a lack of effort.”
The Beach had a slow start and were too impatient to connect early passes in the attacking third. Meanwhile, UCI was aggressive and took the first three shots of the game but LBSU goalkeeper Zora Standifer made the stops and finished with four saves in her third start for injured Morgan Houston-Shepherd.
At the other end, LBSU didn’t have a quality scoring opportunity until the half hour mark but looked sharp to start the second half attacking Carpenter End. Guillory and senior Kayla Cannon were lively on the right flank and left back Kaylee Ramirez got loose after halftime to put LBSU on the front foot.
“She made a difference in the second half for sure,” Ingrassia said of Guillory, who was playing her second game of the season since returning from injury. “We were able to keep the ball better.”
Cannon cut back deftly and nearly scored in the 57th minute, but Sandifer dove to make the save at the far post. Ramirez sent multiple free kicks and corners into the box after earning the set pieces, but the Beach couldn’t get on the end of them with headers going over the crossbar.
LBSU earned the last scoring chance of regulation, and the first opportunity in overtime, but Smeenge knocked home a deflected sitter right in front of goal to take all of the points.
“It’s unfortunate because I think we deserved a little bit more out of the game, but at the same time give them credit they made the play,” Ingrassia said. “We’re just going to regroup and learn from what we could’ve done better and continue to improve week by week. Our team has been playing well but this is just part of the game. It’s unfortunate but it happens.”
Guillory doesn’t doubt her team can bounce back next Thursday at first-place UC Davis.
“We’ve gone through a lot this season with injuries and adversity and I think this is the strongest team we’ve ever had in terms of team culture and us sticking together,” Guillroy said. “I think we’re just going to rally together and lift each other up… We’re strong enough to rebuild after this and come out even better for the next game.”