As the rain began to pour down at Edwards Stadium on Friday afternoon, fans scattered and retreated to their umbrellas.
Puddles formed across the field. Players on the bench huddled together for warmth, shifting their focus from the action on the field to the downpour in the sky.
After 90 minutes, the Cal men’s soccer team’s season came to a fitting end. In a sloppy contest full of botched goal kicks and errant passes, the Bears (3-9-5, 0-7-3 in the Pac-12) slipped and slid into a 3-0 loss to the hands of Stanford.
The loss completed a winless Pac-12 conference season, the first in the program’s history.
Although cold and windy, the weather appeared, at the very least, tolerable at the commencement of the match. For the first 10 minutes, the Bears traded possessions with Stanford, neither team establishing much of an advantage.
But then the rain came.
At first, one couldn’t determine whether it was a temporary drizzle or the preface to a torrential monsoon. As the rain picked up pace, however, it became clear no one was staying dry on this particular afternoon.
In the 10th minute, Stanford (6-10-2, 3-6-1) broke the string of monotonous play with an impressive effort. Taking advantage of the Cal defense’s lack of footing, senior midfielder Grant Gunther unleashed a left-footed screamer that rebounded off of goalkeeper Kevin Peach’s hands, providing an easy opportunity for a rebound tap-in.
Peach, who was given the start over redshirt sophomore Robbie Gogatz, looked increasingly uncomfortable at times. His footing betrayed him, and a couple of goal kicks were booted either all the way to the other goalie box or simply right out of bounds.
The initial shot was uncharacteristically mishandled by the redshirt freshman, allowing Gunther to take the rebound and put the Cardinal up 1-0.
In the 44th minute, Stanford forward Zach Batteer took a perfectly placed cross from freshman forward Bobby Edwards and buried an easy goal to give the Cardinal a 2-0 advantage before the break.
The rain continued to come down as the teams retreated to the locker rooms for the second half. With no action on the field and only a scoreboard timer to indicate when the players would return for the penultimate half of the 2011 season, fans were confronted with the choice of braving the elements for 15 minutes or turning away and saying an early goodbye to their beloved Bears — most stayed put.
In the 61st minute, a sloppy foul in the box gave Stanford forward Adam Jahn a penalty kick with the opportunity to put the Cardinal up 3-0. With rain pouring down and staring down at the barrel of a winless Pac-12 season, Peach stood stoically in preparation.
Jahn scored, securing the Bears’ calamitous fate.
This particular game may have been out of reach, but eventually the rain would stop, and a new day would emerge. As the saying goes, there’s always another season.
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