STANFORD, Calif. — For the first 19 minutes of Saturday’s Bay Area Derby against No. 1 Stanford, the Cal women’s soccer team looked on par with this year’s Pac-12 champions. While battling the pouring rain at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium, the Bears controlled the pace of the match, and it seemed the Bears’ first goal was surely imminent.
But within 40 seconds, all fell apart for Cal as it gave up two goals in rapid succession to cement their 2-0 loss to its rivals.
In the 20th minute, the Cardinal earned a questionable foul 30 yards from the goalpost, a soft tackle that drew the ire of Cal coach Neil McGuire and his players towards referee Ian Anderson.
That foul proved to be the turning point of the match. Stanford forward Lindsey Taylor, leading the conference in goals, etched her 17th goal of the season when her free kick bounced off the crossbar and rolled into the net to give the Cardinal a lead.
For the next minute, the Bears (12-6-2, 5-4-2 in the Pac-12) completely lost their focus as Stanford repossessed the ball and drove down to the penalty box, ultimately culminating in midfielder Kristy Zurmuhlen doubling the lead from eight yards out from the goalpost.
“The players believed (the foul) was an injustice,” McGuire said. “We didn’t react well. Referees are going to make choices throughout the match, and we have to recognize and try to move past it.”
While the two goals of the game came and went in a blink of an eye, the rain never stopped for 90 minutes. With the field slowly turning into a puddle of grass and mud, both sides had their shares of trips and whiffed passes throughout the match.
But the rain impacted the goalkeepers the most, especially Cal’s Emily Kruger. Aside from the conceded goals, Kruger looked shaky in the first half as her half-whiffed kicks flew unpredictably and the lack of grip on the wet ball made her day even more miserable. But she came back more composed in the second half, making a couple of key saves that prevented the Cardinal from increasing their lead.
“The field was a slick surface and it was definitely difficult to control the ball for all players,” McGuire said.
Rain or not, Stanford was relentless and lightning-fast in its attack throughout the contest, displaying why they have the top scoring unit in the conference. The Cardinal’s brightest spot was forward Chioma Ubogagu who constantly burned fullback Genessee Daughtee in the right wing, taking three shots in the match. By the end of the first half, Stanford outshot the Bears, 14-4.
While the Cardinal forwards like Ubogagu and Taylor endlessly terrorized Cal’s defensive line, the Bears’ forwards failed to strike any fear into Stanford’s backline. The best goalscoring chance for Cal came not from a forward but a midfielder, when Taylor Comeau’s shot hit the crossbar in the 50th minute.
“We had the momentum at the time,” McGuire said. “Had that gone in, the game would have completely changed.”