Both teams earned automatic bids into the tournament by winning their conference titles. The Waves shared the West Coast Conference title with San Diego, but received the automatic bid into the post season because they beat the Toreros 1-0 on Oct.6. Long Beach State won the Big West Conference title for the second straight year.
Pepperdine (15-1-4) is coming off a record season, with an unbeaten streak that stretched to 18 games before being snapped by Santa Clara. The Waves also set a new WCC and school record for the most conference wins in a season, with seven. Other school records set by the team include the lowest number of goals given up in a season (11), the lowest goals-against average for a season (0.53), and the most shutouts in a season (11).
Long Beach State (15-5-1) has also set some records this year, establishing a new scoring record of 46 goals for both the BWC and the school. The 49ers also set a new record for the most wins in a season (15).
Offensively, Long Beach definitely has the edge, outscoring the 49ers 46 goals 26 goals over the season. Long Beach boasts the Big West Offensive Player of the Year Nadia Link, who leads the 49ers with 15 goals and 10 assists. The junior forward, who is tied for 15th nationally for points per game (1.90) also received All Big West First Team honors, along with teammate Shawna Gordon, who was named Big West Midfielder of the Year. Gordon is second on the team in scoring with seven goals and 10 assists.
Pepperdine’s offense is led by junior forward Anisa Guajardo , who has nine goals on the season and received All-WCC Honorable Mention honors. Senior forward Laura Cole was named to the First Team and has scored seven goals, while WCC Freshman of the Year Lynn Williams has netted six goals.
The Waves hold the advantage defensively, ranking 12th nationally for their .532 goals against average. Defender Michelle Pao earned first team honors, while defender Kelsea Smith was named to the second team. Goalkeeper Roxanne Barker is 12th nationally for her save percentage of .875 and she earned WCC second team honors.
Long Beach has shown it can also be stingy on defense, however. In the Big West Tournament, the 49ers did not allow a goal in their wins over Cal State Northridge (2-0) or UC Irvine (1-0). Junior Alex Balcer was named the Big West Tournament MVP and was named as one of CollegeSoccer360.com's Primetime Performers. In the goal, senior Kaitlyn Gustaves has a 0.85 goals against average and has recorded nine shutouts.
Pepperdine leads the overall series between the two teams, 5-1-0. At home, the Waves have been unbeatable in 21 games – a streak going back to 2009.
If the Waves want to extend that streak – and their season – they will have to shut down Nadia Link. And, while that will go a long way in keeping Pepperdine in the game, the Waves have to be able to find the back of the net.
Kickoff at Tari Frahm Rokus Field is 1:30 p.m. PT.