FULLERTON, Calif. – Alba Barrios' goal in the 56th minute of action propelled No. 3 seed Cal State Fullerton past top-seeded Long Beach State, 1-0, as the Titans won their third straight Big West Conference Tournament title Sunday afternoon at Titan Stadium. With the win, CSF improves to 16-3-1 on the year and earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"I couldn't be more proud of the women and the program at this point," Cal State Fullerton head coach Demian Brown said. "Going into the game, it was always going to be one of those games where it wasn't necessarily based on skill; you had to grind it out and be tougher than your opponent. Our women really stepped up and did that."
Christina Burkenroad earned Big West Conference Tournament MVP honors for the second year in a row after the senior finished the tournament with a hat trick, seven points and an assist – all in the semifinal contest. In the championship game, Burkenroad contributed a pair of shots, one of which was on goal.
"I am honored, honestly." Burkenroad said of being named MVP. "I wasn't expecting it. To compete with such great teammates, I just feel very honored."
Barrios, a freshman midfielder, came off the bench and scored the eventual game-winning goal at 55:04. The goal was just the second of her collegiate career as she sent the ball into the back of the net after senior forward Rebecca Wilson's shot was blocked. The lone goal of the contest hit the left corner of the net as it sailed past 49er freshman goalkeeper Imani McDonald (4-1-0) who suffered her first loss of the year.
"When I saw Becca do all of the work…I knew I had to follow up just in case," Barrios explained. "It wasn't a pretty goal, but I knew I needed to get it done."
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Jennifer Stuart (14-1-0) did a solid job between the posts as she held Long Beach State (12-6-3) – which posted 26 goals this season – scoreless in 90-minutes of action. Stuart collected six saves in the game as she went on to win her 14th game of the year to tie her for second in Cal State Fullerton's single-season record book.
Fullerton held the edge in shots with 12 to the 49ers' nine. The Titans also led in saves (6-5) and corner kicks (3-1).
Burkenroad, Wilson and sophomore Kaycee Hoover led the Titans with two shots each, while eight of 10 starters – not including Stuart – each tallied a shot or a shot on goal.
Long Beach State's senior defender Melanie Fox posted three shots, two of which were on goal. She was the only 49er to record multiple shots and shots on goal.
Fullerton will find out its seeding during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show which will be aired on NCAA.com Monday, Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m. (PT). This will be the Titans seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament and third straight showing. Cal State Fullerton is 3-6 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
"Having the automatic bid is amazing," Coach Brown said. "For us, it's another opportunity to play in a big game. We'll celebrate this and really enjoy it then come Tuesday, we'll get ready for the next biggest game."