Despite earning a point in its regular-season finale at Long Beach State, the Hawaii soccer team was assigned the fourth seed among four teams in next week’s Big West tournament.
The tournament will be held at Cal State Fullerton, which earned the No. 1 seed by virtue of beating Cal State Northridge in its finale Sunday. After a series of tiebreakers, Northridge, UC Santa Barbara and UH — which all finished at 15 points in the standings in a tie for second — were assigned the No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds, respectively.
UH (6-7-4, 4-1-3 Big West), which is in the BWC tourney for the first time, will face the host Titans at 7:30 p.m. PST/5:30 p.m. HST at Fullerton on Thursday after drawing 1-1 in double-overtime against LBSU in Sunday’s regular-season finale.
The Wahine and the Titans drew at Fullerton’s field in the regular season, 1-1 on Oct. 20. That was UH’s first result against CSUF in eight Big West meetings (0-7 previously).
— Big West Championships (@BigWestChamps) November 4, 2019
Fullerton (12-2-4, 5-0-3 BWC) did not take a loss in the Big West season. It was quite a turnaround as the Titans finished last place last year, though they knocked UH out of tournament consideration at Waipio on UH’s senior night.
“I think the field at Fullerton is going to play a major factor for all of the teams. It’s massive and the stadium is very cavernous,” UH coach Michele Nagamine said in a postgame phone interview Sunday. “So it’s going to be a battle, and we’re looking forward to it. Any time you get to play the host team first, with fresh legs — we should be nice and recovered by Thursday. The good thing is we’re already on California time and we gained an hour this morning (due to daylight savings time), so even better.
“We’re taking the attitude that we had one goal this entire season, and that was to make it to this tournament,” she added. “You know, it was unprecedented for us to get the results in conference play, and on the road. David Matlin was the one who pointed out to me that we didn’t lose a game on the road this year in conference (2-0-2), and that was pretty phenomenal as well. I definitely am thrilled for my team. I think they’ve worked hard for this. They’ve defied a lot of the odds. We were picked to finish seven and ended up tying for second. It was one of those seasons for us where we’re going to enjoy it. It’s a new experience for the kids and the coaches to be in the postseason, and we are going to soak up every minute of it.”
Much was up in the air for the day’s four regular-season finale matches spanning the Big West. There was even a scenario in which UH would be the No. 1 seed and host the four-team tournament at Waipio.
But that required UH to win at LBSU for the first time since 2003, and that was not in the cards despite a spirited effort. UH drew with the mathematically eliminated Beach 1-1, finishing the regular season with 15 points in the standings. Fullerton and Northridge needed to draw in that scenario, and UCSB needed not to win (they tied UC Irvine). So only one of the requisite things happened.
UH tried to play the game without knowing any of the outside results or scores in progress.
After LBSU scored on a penalty kick (earned from a UH hand ball call in the box that Nagamine disagreed with) in the 42nd minute, UH trailed 1-0 at halftime. But holding midfielder Morgan Meza connected on a frozen rope from outside the box to knot it up in the 63rd minute.
“Morgan Meza scored an absolute rocket of a goal. One of the best goals I’ve seen all season,” Nagamine said. “It was fantastic. To be the hometown girl, Morgan is from Long Beach. She played for Beach FC. She lives down the street. This was such a special way for her to end the (regular) season. I was really happy for her.”
Both teams had a number of chances, including the extra periods. Goalkeeper Lex Mata was on her game, though, finishing with five saves. She’s still a very strong contender for Big West defensive player of the year, which will be announced with the other conference awards leading into the tournament.
If you’re wondering about the three-team tiebreaker scenarios, there were as follows:
1) Best record against the other tied teams — that didn’t solve anything as the three went 1-1 against the other two
2) Goal differential in conference matches — all three exceeded the plus-three margin cap, so that didn’t solve anything either
3) Fewest goals allowed in conference — CSUN gave up 7 and UH and UCSB 10 apiece. So CSUN earned the No. 2 seed.
It then reverted to a head-to-head tiebreaker between UH and UCSB, and UCSB won out on that because it beat UH 4-1 in the regular season. Thus, UCSB is the 3 seed and UH the 4.
Through Nov. 14
|Cal State Fullerton||5-0-3||18||14-3-4||.762|
|Cal State Northridge||5-3-0||15||12-7-3||.614|
|UC Santa Barbara||4-1-3||15||8-5-6||.579|
|Long Beach State||2-5-1||7||4-12-1||.265|