Long Beach State Soccer

LBSU Women’s Soccer Season Preview 2023

The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2023-24 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. But it might just be perspective, which changes all the time. 

It’s been a long and arduous five years since the Long Beach State women’s soccer team took the Big West Conference Tournament championship and reached the NCAA Tournament. The last two campaigns have ended with the Beach squandering a golden opportunity to snap that streak on the last weekend of the regular seasons.

That fact is not lost on coach Mauricio Ingrassia and his 2023 team that’s been tabbed to take the conference in a preseason coaches poll.

“Every year is different, but every year we’ve been able to respond and get right there and so it’s exciting. I think that in the last week we’ve had everything to play for and says a lot about these groups. I think this group has a great chance to take another good leap forward.”

Ingrassia added that the offseason training has been positive and the players are in better shape than they’ve been since before the COVID shutdowns.

“It’s definitely motivation and it’s wanting to be not equal, but better than the teams we were before,” midfielder Maddy Perez said about falling short the last two seasons. “We are going to break teams down possessionaly because one of our biggest strengths is our technical ability.”

Perez, Elysia Laramie and Cherrie Cox are the top three returners who can all play multiple positions. Last year, Perez was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-West Region third team and All-Big West first team. The junior will play both center back and holding mid.

Laramie is the most experienced player on the roster and is training to play both center back and center forward to utilize her 5’9” frame and nose for the ball. She has nine goals and three assists in 59 games over three seasons that were limited due to injury.

“As a sixth year senior it’s definitely time to step up into a bigger leadership role and really carry the team on my back as much as I can,” Laramie said. “I’m trying to lead by example but I have a lot of experience here that I can share with other players.”

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Cox is the reigning Big West Freshman of the Year after tallying five goals and five assists last season. That ranked fifth in the conference for individual points. The biggest issue for this team will be replacing striker Lena Silano, and Cox will lead that charge up top.

“We can’t replace it but we can reinvent it,” Ingrassia said of the Silano departure and his strategy to get as many goal scorers involved as possible.

Cox will be joined on the front line by transfer Kassandra Ceja, junior Summer Laskey and transfer Amanda Perez. Ceja had a team-high 13 points at Fresno State last season, Lackey was the second at LBSU with six goals and Perez scored twice for LMU as a freshman.

There are also more new faces in the midfield after Ingrassia brought in 13 players in the offseason who have added much needed depth. That also means returners Aleea Caceres, Julia Moore and Sara Ybarra won’t have to play a full 90 minutes like they were doing last year.

Midfielder Jordan Candelaria will be a huge addition after she was named the New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year. She had 26 goals and 15 assists as a senior.

LBSU’s back line was very thin last year, and Ingrassia said that’s created more competitions and options to add solid pieces around Laramie. Freshman Brooklyn Antonucci will come into the starting lineup on the left side, redshirt freshman Litzy Morales is coming off an injury and redshirt freshman Kana Uchida is coming back after a year off following her move from Japan.

Juniors Morgan Houston-Shepherd and Zora Standifer are the top two options at goalkeeper where Ingrassia is willing to play both of them. Houston-Shepherd made four saves in the first half to keep the Beach in their exhibition against USC last weekend. Julie Lopez scored the 1-1 equalizer in the 74th minute.

Maddy Perez and the other seniors have been talking about making sure this team knows how to be cohesive despite all the new faces and pressure to perform well immediately.

“Togetherness is one of our biggest goals this season,” she said. “We have been very inclusive. We went kayaking together and mixed all the classes together, no one was allowed with their best friends. It’s just making sure everyone is included and no one is left out. Hopefully that translates to the field.”

The season starts Thursday at George Allen Field where LBSU hosts No. 15 Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. LBSU will also host Boston College on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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