Long Beach State soaks up a win, beats Panthers 3-1

IMG_3941 IMG_3945 IMG_3948 IMG_3951 IMG_3957The air was heavy with humidity and nothing but a hot breeze to encapsulate the crowd of 187 on Sept. 21, when the Panthers welcomed No. 23 Long Beach State University, a west coast team out of the Big West Conference. West coasts teams have been known to cause problems with their size and quick ability to get out on breaks and the 49ers of Long Beach State stuck true to that description.

The California-based team came out running, flashing their counterattack strategy within the first 30 seconds. Freshman goalkeeper Nevena Stojakovic (four saves, three goals allowed) slid for a save, but the ball jarred loose back onto the soft field, landing at the feet of a Long Beach attacker. Luckily, the ball sailed over the top, but the level of intensity was set. It took no more than two minutes for senior forward Chelsea Leiva to find her first shot on goal, which helped get the Panthers rolling.

At the 12th minute, LBSU junior Vania Robles found the back of the net after capitalizing on a loose ball, putting the 49ers ahead 1-0. No more than three minutes later, the Panthers found the equalizer thanks to junior midfielder Scarlet Montoya.

“My coaches are constantly telling me, ‘Get in the box, get in the box,’” said Montoya. “Then, I saw [the ball] and said, ‘Hey.’”

Montoya’s header began the barrage of chances on goal for the Panthers. Head Coach Thomas Chestnutt’s team was clicking on all cylinders. Both teams had five shots on goal at the end of 45 minutes, but momentum was clearly swung in the Panthers’ direction.

“We had ‘em on the ropes at the end of the half,” said Chestnutt. “[Long Beach] had no answer. They were ripe for the picking. It was unfortunate we didn’t capitalize on those moments.”

Moments that included Leiva on a breakaway due in part to senior midfielder Johanna Volz’ smooth through ball and senior forward Ashleigh Shim’s one-on-one showdown with 49ers sophomore goalkeeper Ashton McKeown (seven saves, one goal allowed).

“I’m gonna have nightmares about that tonight,” said Shim. “It’s stuff like this that has to be better—it’s got to be better.”

Halftime ended and the momentum for the Panthers unfortunately drifted away. Defense was stout for most of the day, but the Panthers’ iron-core could only stifle Long Beach’s attack for so long. Shim didn’t begin the half, along with Leiva being subbed out at the 56th minute. The heat began to play a factor and Chestnutt had decisions to make.

“We came back out with a game plan to keep [Long Beach] under pressure,” said Chestnutt. “Ultimately, players have to get rest. Attackers, especially, can’t play two 90 minute games. Just can’t do it.”

At the 62nd minute, the 49ers’ junior midfielder Marie MacKenzie exploited the Panthers’ defense off a corner kick. Down 2-1, the game still stayed close, but a “now or never” feeling overcame the game. At the 70th minute, Chestnutt subbed in Shim and Leiva, which produced an offensive product similar to the first half. At the 82nd minute, Shim found her second one-on-one opportunity with McKeown, but failed to find the back of the net.

On how she found opportunities like this all game, Shim said: “I just really like to use my quickness and get the defender off-balance… A quick shift and it could be over.”

The final dagger came at the hands of Robles, capping her second goal for Long Beach State University. At that moment, 3-1 proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome. Thus, the final whistle blew and the three-game winning streak was snapped for the Panthers. With the loss, the Panthers are 3-3 at home on the eve of Conference-USA play.

What stalled the offense for the Panthers in the second half was not a mystery—it was just executing when the chances presented themselves.

“[Long Beach] took all the opportunities that they had,” said Montoya.

Chestnutt and the Panthers look to get back on track against Old Dominion University, the first C-USA opponent of the season, on Friday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.

About the Author

James Profetto
:Staff Writer for FIU Student Media. Majoring in Broadcast Media. Sports guru with a passion for movies, music and getting to know people. Aspiring play-by-play commentator. You'll see me on TV one day.

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