Bears spear unruly Bison in Hawaii tournament shutout

For senior forward Katie Benz, the weekend trip to Honolulu was strictly business.

“The beach and the temptation will be there, but first and foremost, this is a business trip to win games,” Benz said.

Under the warm Hawaiian sun, the Cal women’s soccer team was able to take a breather after its 7-0 rout against North Dakota State on Friday night.

The Bears participated in the ‘Ohana Hotels No Kai ‘Oi tournament, alongside the Bison as well as host Hawaii at the Waipi’o Peninsula Soccer Stadium.

Until coach Neil McGuire’s squad took the field with North Dakota State, the Bison were a mystery team to Cal. With North Dakota State playing in the rather obscure Summit League, the coaches found little scouting information to prepare for the Bison.

“We expected North Dakota State to be very organized and disciplined, because of the amount of returning seniors on the team,” McGuire said.

For the first 15 minutes, North Dakota State maintained a disciplined approach to put the match at a stalemate. But when Benz scored the first goal of the match in the 17th minute, the floodgates opened and the Bison’s discipline collapsed.

Benz scored her first goal when she tapped in a perfect cross from forward Miranda White, a set piece the team had been practicing for the entire week.

“The girls got excited when they saw the fruits of their labor, because it worked exactly as they have seen in the training grounds,” McGuire said.

Four minutes later, Benz struck the net again thanks to a through pass from midfielder Katie Bennett. Forwards Mekenna DeBack and Kory Lamet followed Benz’s lead to put the Bears up, 4-0.

The Bears’ defense played to perfection in the first half, as goalkeeper Emily Kruger went into the break without having to make a single save.

Cal’s offensive strikes did not stop in the second half. White, coming back from an off-season injury, scored two consecutive goals in the 56th and 66th minutes, scoring twice in one game for the first time in her career. DeBack scored her second goal of the match in the 83rd minute when she followed a shot from forward Rachel Mercik.

As the Bears proved to be unstoppable, the Bison resorted to fouls to stop the flow and end the match as soon as possible. North Dakota State committed 11 fouls in the second half; forward Brooklyn Dyce was sent off in the 63rd minute, putting the 10-player Bison team at a greater disadvantage.

When the dust cleared after the onslaught, Cal outshot North Dakota State, 19-3. Cal goalkeepers, Kruger and Kathleen Messinger — Kruger’s substitute after halftime — were untested by the nonexistent Bison offense.

On Sunday night, the Bears continued their impressive play, blanking Hawaii, 3-0, to push their season record to 3-1.