Long Beach State Soccer

Long Beach State Women’s Soccer Wins Regular Season Finale

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

The regular season finale was a microcosm of this Long Beach State women’s soccer season. They scored early, conceded late and eventually walked off the pitch with a positive outlook going forward.

On Thursday at George Allen Field, LBSU scored four times before Hawaii got two of its own in the second half, but the Beach held off the comeback for a 4-2 win that sends them to the Big West Conference Championship as the No. 4 seed.

LBSU (10-6-3, 5-3-2) will host No. 5 seed UC Irvine in the first round of the tournament on Sunday at George Allen Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. The winner faces Big West champion and host Cal State Fullerton on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Cherrie Cox scored the first and last goal for LBSU against a quality Hawaii side, and sophomore leads the Big West with 13 goals this season. The Beach leads the conference with 37 goals.

“I think we’re getting there but we haven’t peaked yet,” Cox said. “We have so many more goals to come and our chemistry is just building every game.”

Kassandra Ceja and Sara Ybarra also scored for the Beach while goalkeeper Morgan Houston-Shepherd made four saves in a spot start. Regular starter Zara Standifer sat out due to a red card last weekend.

“We had a great start because our heads were in it from the get go,” LBSU coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “We’re starting three freshmen in the back with a goalkeeper who hasn’t played in a long time until today. So we’re going to have our ups and downs. But I do feel like we’re hitting our stride. At this point you just have to keep responding to situations like we just had right now. Anytime you have adversity that’s what defines you.”

LBSU is unbeaten at home since losing to Texas in the season opener when the Longhorns scored a late winner.

“It’s a 10-win season, that’s a benchmark for us, and if you look at our 10-win seasons they’ve ended on a high note,” Ingrassia said.

The last time LBSU won 10 games was in 2018 when they won the Big West title.

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LBSU knew coming into Thursday that a win would earn a home game in the conference tournament. The Beach showed its intent by earning a pair of corner kicks in the opening minute.

“Having our home crowd is really important to us, so I think that was just a little more motivation to get the win and do what we need to do to play here Sunday,” midfielder Makayla Demelo said.

It was Demelo who set up the first goal in the 18th minute when she squared up her defender on the right side of the 18-yard box. She made a move to draw contact and went to ground, but there was no whistle, so she retrieved the ball and did it again. This time the penalty was awarded and Cox converted.

“I think she’s been pretty much our steadiest player throughout the year,” Ingrassia said of Demelo, who transferred from Loyola Marymount. “She’s a motor in the midfield and we’re just really glad she’s here.”

“I think that I bring a sense of urgency in the midfield, along with Julia Moore, we connect really well,” Demelo said. “And playing on the right side with (Cox) makes my life a lot easier too. I hope to keep bringing that energy to the midfield.”

In the 29th minute, Ceja’s shot on goal hit a Hawaii hand and she took the resulting penalty kick herself.

LBSU maintained its pressure before a 36th minute corner kick fell to Sara Ybarra at the back post. The sophomore scored a cracking goal, her first of the season, to make it 3-0 at halftime.

Cox scored her second goal in the 49th minute when she controlled a long free kick into the box. She brought it down with her chest and then finished with one touch.

Amber Gilbert and Mia Foster scored for Hawaii in the 63rd and 66th minutes.

PHOTOS: Long Beach State vs. Hawaii, NCAA 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.