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Long Beach State heads to UC Irvine for Big West championship rematch on Sunday

The 49ers are looking to defend their Big West Tournament title on Sunday when they take on UC Irvine in the championship game.
(Photo by Steven Georges)

Nov. 4, 2011

Big West Tournament - Finals
No. 2 seed Long Beach State (14-5-1) at
No. 1 seed UC Irvine (14-3-2)
Sunday, Nov. 6
Time: Noon (PST)
Location: Anteater Stadium
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LONG BEACH - The No. 2 seed Long Beach State women's soccer team is one win away from defending its Big West Tournament title and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four years as it heads to top-seeded UC Irvine for a championship showdown at noon on Sunday, Nov. 6.

Since Mauricio Ingrassia took over the helm of the 49er women's soccer team in 2004, the program has established itself as one of the dominant forces in the Big West. This is LBSU's second consecutive appearance in the finals of the conference tournament and third in the last four years.

Long Beach State has also finished either first or second in the league standings in four of the last five years, winning an unprecedented three consecutive Big West regular season titles and one tournament title during that span.

The 2011 Big West Tournament has played out very similar to last year. LBSU and UCI will meet in a rematch of the 2010 final where the second-seeded 49ers topped the No. 1 seed and 11th-ranked Anteaters, 1-0. For the second year in a row, Long Beach State advanced to the championship game by way of a victory over No. 3 seed Cal State Northridge.

LBSU was not featured in the national polls this week, but was fifth in the NSCAA West Regional rankings. The 49ers have been in the top 25 three times this season with their highest ranking coming at No. 22 in the NSCAA poll released on Oct. 11. UC Irvine was ranked 16th in the Soccer America poll and 24th in the NSCAA poll.

Eighth-year head coach Mauricio Ingrassia is closing in on the century mark for career wins at Long Beach State. Against UC Davis (Oct. 28), he picked up his 90th victory as he has led the 49ers to a 10-plus win season in six of his eight years. Ingrassia is 92-53-17 at LBSU.

UC Irvine (14-3-2), which is on a seven-game winning streak, made its way back to the Big West finals with a 1-0 victory over No. 4 seed UC Davis on Thursday evening. Natalia Ledezma has paced the Anteaters with a team-best 12 goals, eight assists and 32 points. Lexi Kopf has also chipped in 11 goals and 23 points. Jennifer Randazzo has manned the net for UCI, posting a 0.89 goals against average, 70 saves and six shutouts.

Long Beach State trails in its all-time series with UC Irvine, 10-6-3. UCI defeated LBSU, 2-0, in the most recent meeting at Anteater Stadium on Oct. 16. That marked just the third time the 49ers were shut out this season and it was also their last loss as they are currently on a four-game winning streak. LBSU is 1-7-1 when playing in Irvine with its lone road win coming in the Big West finals last year.

Long Beach State is in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in program history. The 49ers have scored a Big West leading and school-record 45 goals, topping the previous best of 44, which was established in 2008. LBSU has also tied the record for victories in a season (14) and has registered its sixth 10-win campaign in the last seven years.

Individually, Nadia Link is second in the single-season record books in goals (15) and points (40). She is just one goal and four points shy of tying the record in both categories. In addition, Link (10) needs three more helpers and Shawna Gordon (9) needs four more to tie the single-season assist record (13).

Junior Nadia Link, who was invited to the U.S. U-23 National Team camp in early October, ranks among the nation's best in points (T13th), assists (T15th) and goals (T24th) per game. Link also leads the Big West in total goals (15), assists (10) and points (40). She is just the third 49er in school history, and the first since the program was reinstated in 1998, to reach double figures in both goals and assists. Link has four multiple-goal games on the year and has registered at least one point in 14 of LBSU's 20 contests. The Rowland Heights native has been named the Big West Offensive Player of the Week twice this season, while also being selected to the and Soccer America Teams of the Week on Sept. 5. She recently made her way back onto the Soccer America Team of the Week on Nov. 2. In the 49er career record books, Link is tied for fifth with 57 points, sixth with 23 goals and tied for eighth with 11 assists.

Senior Shawna Gordon is known for her finesse as she has a career-high nine assists, but she is also one of the 49ers' top scoring threats with seven goals. Gordon scored the game-winner on a penalty kick in a 2-1 overtime win at UC Santa Barbara before notching two goals and an assist in a 6-0 triumph over Cal Poly. Earlier this year, the Rancho Cucamonga native also established a school record with four assists in a 6-0 victory against Saint Mary's. Gordon is currently third in LBSU history with 23 career helpers, is tied for fifth with 57 points, and is tied for eighth with 17 career goals.

Senior Nicole Sweetman has put together quite a streak late in the season as she has found the back of the net in three of the last four games. The Oxnard native ranks fourth on the squad with six goals and 15 points. She had a goal and an assist in the 49ers' 2-0 victory over Cal State Northridge in the Big West semifinals last Thursday.

Senior Nicole Hubbard registered her first career hat trick in a 6-0 win over Saint Mary's on Sept. 18. The Lakewood native is second on the team with eight goals this season. She is also tied for eighth on the 49ers' all-time top 10 list with 17 career goals.

Senior Kaitlyn Gustaves was tabbed the Big West Women's Soccer Defensive Player of the Week after registering a career-high nine saves in a 2-1 overtime victory against Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 9. On the season, the Long Beach native has compiled 59 saves, eight shutouts and a league-leading 0.89 goals against average. Her GAA and shutout total rank among the top 10 in the 49er single-season record books.

The winner of the Big West Tournament will earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships which begins on Friday, Nov. 11. The selection show is set for Monday, Nov. 7, at 1:30 p.m. PST.



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