Lafayette falls to Long Beach in first-ever state title game
Published 2:49 pm Monday, February 6, 2023
Lafayette soccer’s Cinderella playoff run came to an end Saturday as the ‘Dores came up short against powerhouse Long Beach in their first-ever state championship game.
The Commodores (19-5, 3-1 Region 1-5A) went on a miraculous run through the playoffs, knocking off Canton, Callaway and Saltillo to secure the first North Half championship in school history.
Their run fell short on Saturday as they were outplayed by a Long Beach squad making their sixth straight appearance in the title game.
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“I thought it was pretty even, we had our chances but they probably did a better job of having a higher pass accuracy than we did,” said head coach Gene Anderson. “We played our gameplan, executed it for the most part… we were close.”
The Bearcats were extremely physical in defense, knocking Lafayette off the ball with ease before using their technical superiority to play keep-away on offense.
The strategy took the ‘Dores by surprise, as they had expected to be out-possessed by the talented South Half champions but did not anticipate the physical play on the back line.
“We didn’t expect it to be physical — well, we didn’t expect them to be physical. We thought it would be a physical game because we were going to bring it but we didn’t expect them to [be that physical],” Anderson said. “Both of their centerbacks were really good and we [couldn’t] get behind them.”
After a back-and-forth first half in which both teams had quality chances to score but were unable to capitalize, Long Beach took advantage of a lackadaisical start to the second half for Lafayette as they scored the go-ahead goal on a set piece from a corner kick in the opening moments of the second period.
Anderson said the goal was a product of his team’s lack of focus coming out of the break, adding that the first 15 minutes or so of the second half changed the course of the game.
“I’d say the first 10 minutes of the second half we didn’t execute the things we talked about at halftime. They dominated us for the first 10, 15, 20 minutes,” Anderson said.
The Bearcats dropped back and took a much more possession-oriented approach after taking the lead, passing the ball around their backline and playing keep-away while the ‘Dores desperately searched for an equalizer.
They were unable to make inroads against Long Beach’s impressive back line however, ultimately falling 1-0 as the clock ran out on their last-ditch comeback attempt.
They finished their season with a 19-6 record and the first North Half championship in program history — something Anderson said provides a foundation for further success in the years to come.
“For us, this was a big moment. Going through the halls, shaking people’s hands — it was big for the younger kids so hopefully it will get them motivated to play some more soccer.”