On the day it needed it the most, the No. 11 Cal field hockey team just didn’t play like itself.
And with their 2-0 loss to Richmond Tuesday, the Bears’ season ended — failing to make the 16-team field vying for the NCAA Championship.
“It was disappointing to finish with not our best game of the year,” Cal coach Shellie Onstead said. “They came out and executed well from the start. We didn’t have our usual punch.”
The match at Maxwell Field started off early as a defensive struggle, as neither team was able to create many scoring opportunities in the first 20 minutes. Eventually, the Spiders began to take control of the ball at Cal’s end of the field and scoring opportunities began to present themselves.
At the 22-minute mark, Richmond (16-6) was able to force a turnover in front of the Bear’s goal, and forward Katelin Peterson capitalized, scoring her team-leading 15th goal of the season.
After the goal, the Spiders continued to press the Cal forwards, forcing a number of turnovers and preventing the Bears from getting into any type of offensive rhythm.
However, towards the end of the first half, the Bears’ aggressive style of play began to show through and it took an impressive save from Richmond goalkeeper Anna Zarkoski to prevent Cal (16-4, 4-2 in the NorPac) from tying up the match shortly before the period ended.
At halftime, the teams looked similar statistically, each with six shots and three penalty corners, but the Bears had yet to convert their opportunities.
“I thought we played a little timid,” Onstead said. “We got back on track, but couldn’t quite get it done.”
Cal’s defense played well in the second half, allowing only four shots by the Spiders, but found themselves in a 2-0 hole after Katelin Peterson netted her second goal of the match.
But this wasn’t anything the Bears haven’t seen before, having come back from a 2-0 deficit with less than one minute remaining earlier in the year against UC Davis.
On Tuesday, Cal fans were hoping for a repeat miracle.
“I don’t think we were that worried when we fell behind by two,” Onstead said. “I think we were expecting to fight our way back like we’ve always done.”
This season, Onstead has always lauded her squad’s ability to recover from poor first halves and rebound with strong finishes.
Tuesday, however, the Richmond defense that has only allowed one goal in their past five matches was just too much for the Bears to handle.
Throughout the second period, the Bears rarely found themselves in Spider territory, amassing only three shots in the entire half. When Cal did find scoring opportunities in the form of penalty corners, they failed to convert.
“I think we’re just disappointed in the way we all played today,” co-captain Erin Magill said. “We just made a lot of mistakes that we usually don’t make.”
With the loss, the Bears finish their season as the No. 11 ranked team in the country with 16 wins, the second most in school history.