Senior Day was not exactly the most joyous occasion for the No. 12 Cal field hockey team.
The Bears fell to Stanford, 3-2, on Sunday at Maxwell Family Field in one of the most tightly contested matches of the season.
Midway through the second period, the Cal fans had an eerie feeling that this would be one of those games where any missed opportunities would come back to haunt their team.
And they were right.
Only a minute into the second period, Cal (12-3, 3-2 in the NorPac) forced its first penalty corner of the half and for the next 15 minutes, it lived in front of the Stanford net. During that period, the Bears amassed a total of eight penalty corners and five shots, including a shot off the post and a goal called back by a foul.
At the end of its offensive barrage, Cal found itself with no goals but plenty of missed opportunities.
“I think we had five or six corners in a row in the second half and we just really needed to convert on those,” senior co-captain Erin Magill said. “There was probably some luck involved, but a lot of it was just our own execution too.
When the Cardinal (12-2, 5-0) finally took control of the ball, they wasted no time converting their own opportunities. Right after a missed shot by the Bears, Stanford took the rebound and ran with it downfield, leading to a Colleen Ryan goal and a 2-1 lead for the Cardinal.
“I think it was a typical Stanford game,” Cal coach Shellie Onstead said. “It was pretty even, there was a lot of emotion and they got it started early so we had to answer back.”
Right when it seemed like Cal was on the ropes, it found a way to answer back. Five minutes after Stanford’s go-ahead goal, the Bears found themselves with a two-on-one breakaway situation. Forward Megan Shimojima took the long outlet pass right to the front of the Stanford net before dropping it off to Rachelle Comeau for the equalizer.
“There were some pretty big momentum swings in the second half,” Magill said. “It was really back-and-forth all day.”
At that point in the match, Stanford began to control the ball and the Bears constantly found themselves defending their own net. After a slew of Cardinal shots and penalty corners, Stanford’s Emily Henriksson took the loose rebound off of a Cal save and knocked it in to give her team the lead.
With less than four minutes remaining, the Bears just couldn’t control the ball enough to mount a late game comeback and fell for only the third time all season.
After the match, Onstead praised her squads’ second half performance but focused on its struggles out of the gate, something that has plagued the Bears in each of their three losses this season.
“I think we were nervous and it took us til the second half to get comfortable,” Onstead said. “I was really pleased with our second half play but our start is definitely something we’ll have to fix going forward.”