IRVINE -- Long Beach State is returning to the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years after knocking off No. 24 UC Irvine in Sunday afternoon's Big West Conference women's tournament final.
Jazz Strozier scored in the 13th minute and the 49ers (15-5-1) backed it up with an organized defense led by goalkeeper Kaitlyn Gustaves and center back Alex Balcer, the tournament MVP.
It was the second straight year Long Beach State has won the title at Anteater Field after UCI captured the regular-season title.
“I thought it was a great day for Long Beach State,” head coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “We came in with a game plan. We executed. ... [UC Irvine is] a very good team.
“We had to earn every inch that we got, but I think hats off to my team this year, because last year I told their coach I thought they were was the best team, when we shook hands, and I feel like this year we had the best team in the Big West.”
Strozier (Ventura/Buena HS and Ventura College) knocked home a corner kick from Loyola Marymount transfer Kelsey Wilson (San Clemente/San Clemente HS) that was first headed by Balcer and Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS). It ended a 435-minute shutout streak for the Anteaters, who had shut out their previous four and six of the previous seven foes.
Nadia Link (Rowland Heights/Walnut HS) nearly added to the lead seven minutes into the second half with a floater that Anteaters goalkeeper Jennifer Randazzo tipped onto the crossbar and away.
UCI (14-4-2), which is expected to receive an at-large berth when the 64-team field is unveiled Monday, nearly pulled even on a 60th-minute free kick by All-American CoCo Goodson, a blistering shot that slipped past the 49ers wall and required a diving save by Gustaves (Long Beach/Wilson HS).
Long Beach shifted from its customary 4-3-3 alignment to a 4-4-2 in the second half, with defender-turned-forward Nicole Hubbard (Lakewood/Mayfair HS) moving into midfield, then dropping deeper, right in front of the back four, in the closing minutes.
In other women's action:
Karenee Demery scored a hat trick -- her 13th, 14th and 15th goals of the season -- as host Cal State Stanislaus (11-4-5) stunned Chico State, 4-0, to win the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament title and claim an NCAA Division II tournament berth.
MEN: Cal State L.A. wins CCAA crown
Cal State L.A. is headed to the NCAA Division II tournament after claiming its first CCAA tournament title with a 2-0 triumph over top-seeded Chico State in Turlock.
Derek Faulkner scored in the fourth minute and Antti Arvola doubled the advantage before halftime for the Golden Eagles (14-1-5), No. 15 in the NCAA Division II rankings.
Jason Swope, the tournament's Most Outstanding Offensive Player, set up Faulkner's strike. UC Santa Barbara transfer Taylor Rivas (Lancaster/Lancaster HS) won the tournament award for best defender, and Arvola, Faulkner, Waleed Cassis and Sergio Cedano (Los Angeles/Palmdale HS) also were selected for the all-tournament team.
Chico State (13-4-3) is expected to receive an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
In other men's action:
Shawn Singh and Victor Chavez (Fontana/A.B. Miller HS) scored goals as No. 8 UCLA (14-4-1) improved to 9-0-0 in Pacific 12 Conference play with a 3-0 romp at Stanford, their first road victory against the Cardinal since 2005.
John McFarlin set up second-half goals by Fernando Barba (Inglewood/Animo Leadership HS) and Dylan Seedman (Laguna Niguel/JSerra HS) as Loyola Marymount (7-10-1) stayed in the West Coast Conference title race with a 4-1 romp over visiting Gonzaga.
Chico State 0, Cal State L.A. 2 (Faulkner 4, Arvola 40)
Loyola Marymount 4 (Jozkowicz pen. 2, Ponce 25, Barba 57, Seedman 67), Gonzaga 1 (Phillips 10)
Stanford 0, UCLA 3 (Chavez 14, own goal 15, Singh 57)
Cal State Stanislaus 4 (Demery 12, 34, 66, Barlow 18), Chico State 0
UC Irvine 0, Long Beach State 1 (Strozier 13)
Home teams listed first