The college women's season kicked off for real Friday with Long Beach State riding its biggest star to pull out a tight victory over No. 25 USC at McAllister Park.
Two-time first-team All-Big West midfielder Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS) beat USC goalkeeper Shelby Church with an 86th-minute header to lift the 49ers to a 2-1 triumph.
Defender Alex Balcer also scored, on a 45-yard free kick off Church's hands, for Long Beach State, which rallied after Haley Boysen (Moorpark/Harvard-Westlake School) gave the Women of Troy a 17th-minute advantage with a looping header off Brittany Kerridge's free kick.
The 49ers are expected to battle UC Irvine, which won its opener (see below), for the Big West Conference title this season, and USC provides a decent barometer, even if the meeting came a little early for Mauricio Ingrassia.
“I think for both teams, first game out, not a lot of rhythm that can be developed,” the eighth-year Long Beach State coach told ESPN Los Angeles. “It would have been nice to play each other maybe five games in, when we've had a little time to settle our lineups.”
Gordon scored after a long throw-in at 6-foot-1 Jazz Strozier (Ventura/Buena HS and Ventura College) flicked into the goalmouth. The ball was knocked about and into the air, and the midfielder -- “Our leader,” Ingrassia called her -- leapt above three others to nod the ball into the net.
USC put on the pressure in the final minutes, but Oklahoma State transfer Kaitlyn Gustaves (Long Beach/Wilson HS) made big saves on Samantha Johnson (Palmdale/Highland HS) and Kerridge, and Elizabeth Eddy (Newport Beach/Newport Harbor HS) hit the crossbar.
“I think we at times did well to possess, but [USC] did a great job with their transition and worked extremely hard,” Ingrassia said. “At times, we weren't able to do what we wanted to do. Other times we had the flow.”
USC coach Ali Khosroshahin, who like Ingrassia played college soccer at Cal State Fullerton (finishing his playing career at Cal State L.A.), told his school's athletics website that he saw few positives and that the Women of Troy need to be “smarter, a little cleaner with the ball.”
“I thought we made a lot of mistakes, and I didn't think we capitalized on all the opportunities we created for ourselves ...,” he said. “We're going to go back, break the film down and see what happens.”
LMU'S SURPRISE: The most unexpected result of opening day came from Loyola Marymount, which scored three goals in the final 20 minutes to stun No. 18 Texas, 3-1, in 101-degree heat in Austin.
All-West Coast Conference forward Tawni Martino (Irvine/Beckman HS), Brittney Sanford, with a penalty kick, and Darien Pyka (Anaheim/Canyon HS) tallied for the Lions, whose game plan was to keep it close and wait for the Longhorns to fatigue.
“Texas had played a pair of exhibition matches, and we hadn't played any, so we knew we had to save some energy for a push late in the match,” LMU coach Joe Mallia told the school's athletics website. “Once we were able to complete our mission of staying within a goal with about 20 minutes left on the clock, we started to pressure them and mount a strong attack. Our team wasn't going to be happy with a 1-0 loss to a good Texas team. We were motivated to earn a positive decision, and we executed our game plan very well tonight.”
In other games:
B.J. Snow was a winner, as expected, in his official debut at UCLA's coach, with U.S. national-teamer Sydney Leroux and New Zealand national-teamer Rosie White scoring in a 2-0 victory at Cal State Northridge. The Bruins outshot the Matadors, 20-6.
Pepperdine won its opener for the third straight year, pulling out a 2-1 upset at Cal as Anisa Guajardo netted a pair of goals. Lauren Battung (Simi Valley/Chaminade HS) tallied late for the Bears.
UCLA transfer Natalia Ledezma (La Mirada/La Mirada HS) scored early and assisted Lexi Kopf late to lift UC Irvine over UT San Antonio, 2-1, at Texas A&M's tournament.
Ann Marie Tangorra (Arcadia/Arcadia HS), a Cal State L.A. transfer, nearly scored in her first game for Cal State Fullerton, which outshot visiting Utah, 11-5 (9-1 in the second half), but settled for a scoreless draw.
Friday's results (home teams listed first)
California 1 (Battung 86), Pepperdine 2 (Guajardo 50, 83)
Cal State Fullerton 0, Utah 0, OT
Cal State Northridge 0, UCLA 2 (Leroux 29, White 73)
Texas 1 (Doniak 22), Loyola Marymount 3 (Martino 71, Sanford pen. 82, Pyka 88)
UNLV 3 (Howerton 12, Botelho 52, Wolfe 90), UC Riverside 0
USC 1 (Boysen 17), Long Beach State 2 (Balcer 36, Gordon 86)
UT San Antonio 1 (Nyhegn 53), UC Irvine 2 (Ledezma 9, Kopf 88)