By Jarrod Castillo, Athletics Editor
Last season, the Beach played like they were missing one shoe, failing to make the Big West Tournament after losing senior forward Ashley Gonzales.
This year, Gonzales returned, and with her leading the charge, the team seemed to have found their glass slipper to regain their footing.
However, unlike a certain Disney fairy tale, not all stories have happy endings.
For Long Beach State (12-6-3), this was evident 25 minutes into the contest against USC (16-2-2) when they found themselves down 0-2, thanks to goals by forwards Natalie Jacobs and Leah Pruitt.
“I felt we were doing well,” Long Beach State head coach Mauricio Ingrassia said. “The first goal was … unfortunate because we had people in positions to make plays.”
Down two goals, the Beach tried to make things interesting but it just seemed like they were overmatched. In the first half alone, USC outshot Long Beach State 13-1, with the Beach’s lone shot being an attempt by forward Kaylee Ramirez that sailed over the crossbar in the 24th minute.
The second half would turn into a laugher as within a ten-minute span between the 53rd and the 63rd, the Beach would concede three goals, making it 5-0. Ingrassia noted that having a response was something that the team lacked.
“I think we didn’t have a good response, to be honest,” Ingrassia said. “I didn’t like our response after the first goal. I felt like we got deflated and that’s not something we do.”
“A team like this will punish you and that’s what happened,” he concluded.
With the game essentially over, the Trojans added one more goal in the 80th minute to put the icing on the cake, making it 6-0. Although senior goalkeeper Imani McDonald tried her hardest in goal, there was no stopping the rain once it started pouring, even on an 81-degree day in Southern California.
Even as the goals kept coming, McDonald kept her head high, especially considering that this was the last game of her collegiate career.
“To put it simply, yes,” McDonald said when asked if she was proud of her career. “I am satisfied with my career here, absolutely.”
“I’m just there to help them [the defenders] as best I can,” she concluded as tears streamed down her face.
In all, the Beach were outshot 28-8, had more fouls than USC (10-7) and had more saves (10-2). Long Beach State was overmatched from the get-go and like that, the Beach’s season ends after a return to the top of the Big West Conference.
With a plethora of seniors leaving, such as offensive star Ashley Gonzales and McDonald in goal, it remains to be seen how the team will fare next year.
However, with the experience that the younger players received throughout the season, it’s safe to say that the program will be at the dance again sooner rather than later.
Maybe then, they might get a happy ending.