The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2023-24 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
Words can be disingenuous, but statistics don’t lie.
Long Beach State let their performance do the talking on Sunday at George Allen Field in a 4-1 victory over visiting UC Santa Barbara. The win moves the Beach (6-3-2, 1-0-1) into a tie with Hawaii atop the Big West women’s soccer standings.
Elysia Laramie, Julia Moore, Cherrie Cox and Amanda Perez all scored for LBSU while the home side outshot UCSB 16-6 and only allowed two shots on goal in the second half. The Beach is unbeaten in its last five home games.
“The team was ready to go today,” LBSU coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “We’re very confident in our ability to score goals and be threatening and it was nice today to be rewarded. I feel like we’ve left some goals on the table even.”
LBSU has scored 25 goals in 11 games and is on pace to set a program record for goals scored in a season.
“I don’t think we’ve peaked offensively,” Laramie said. “I think we’re still growing. We’re still building our connections and getting better at finishing those opportunities.”
This conference clash started slowly and the first shot on goal came from Kassandra Ceja in the 10th minute. Cox bounced one off the crossbar a minute later.
UCSB didn’t earn its first shot until the 19th minute, and it seemed to open up the game. The Beach countered that opportunity, and at the other end Moore narrowly missed a shot across the front of goal.
In the 22nd minute, Laramie found the ball at her feet in the UCSB half and played a give-and-go with Ceja.
“The ball came in to my feet, Ceja was wide open so I flicked her the ball and ran into the channel and she just gave me the perfect ball and we finished it in the corner,” said Laramie, who now has a team-high eight goals on the season.
Makayla Demelo and Aleea Caceres played with phenomenal physicality in the midfield to keep LBSU on the front foot. Jordan Candelaria and Julie Lopez also put in great shifts off the bench to get the Beach to halftime with a 1-0 advantage.
Five minutes into the second half, Maddy Perez served up a free kick into the UCSB box where Ceja got a touch. The ball fell perfectly to Moore who smashed it home for her fourth goal of the year.
Four minutes later, Ceja controlled a bouncing ball in the UCSB end on a counter attack and played it through for Cox. The sophomore used one touch to go around the charging goalkeeper and netted her sixth goal.
“We play as a team,” Ceja said. “We’re doing that final pass that allows us to make it easier rather than forcing something that may not be on. I know that in some instances I could take a shot, but I know that I always have (Cox or Laramie) in front of me who can put it away for me.”
Cox has been able to spark the LBSU attack recently by making more central runs from the right flank.
“I think getting the ball at my feet inside and running at their back line just opens up the game more and opens more gates for that final pass,” Cox said. “We’re just enjoying the game a lot more. We’re putting the work in for each other and it’s just going to keep going.”
LBSU left back Kana Uchida started the counter attack that led to Cox’s goal, and in the 78th minute, she delivered an inch-perfect ball from just inside midfield. It found Perez in front of goal for a header that is the transfer’s first score for the Beach.
UCSB (2-4-6, 0-2-1) got on the scoreboard in the 87th minute off a corner kick goal from Brenna Madruga.
Laramie, Cox and Ceja all agreed that their sharp and multifaceted attack is a byproduct of playing quality sides before Big West started.
“When you play Texas, USC and all of these great teams, and then you bring it into these games, now it’s just about team chemistry and making sure we connect those final passes,” Ceja said. “That preseason schedule helped us get to this point.”
LBSU visits UC Davis on Thursday and CSU Bakersfield on Sunday.