Not many people will look fondly upon the 2011 season for the Cal men’s soccer team.
The Bears of the present year failed to replicate the results of a thrilling 2010 season in which the squad reached the quarterfinals of the Division I men’s soccer tournament, struggling to replace the seven seniors who departed to the MLS.
A 3-9-5 record overall and, more importantly, an 0-7-3 record in the Pac-12 conference was not what coach Kevin Grimes might have anticipated for the year. Although some core elements of the team had jettisoned for greener pastures, veterans such as juniors John Fitzpatrick and Tony Salciccia were counted on to keep the team, at the very least, respectable.
A promising start to the season gave the Bears hope for their conference schedule. Cal started off the season with a 1-0 shutout of the University of San Francisco, and later that month defeated No. 15 Kentucky in a 3-2 slugfest at Edwards Stadium.
“The highlight of our season was how the season started,” Grimes said. “The team was on a roll.”
A 4-2 loss against Santa Clara in the Bay Area Classic, however, gave a hint as to how the rest of the season would play out. The defense appeared sloppy, and the offensive attack had lost its potency by the end of the match.
After a 3-0 win against Vermont the following Sunday, the Bears played five consecutive matches against Pac-12 teams with an 0-3-2 record. Interestingly enough, four of those matches went into overtime. Cal kept opponents close, but simply could not finish the job in those overtime battles against the likes of Washington and UCLA.
The latter half of the Pac-12 schedule was even more unforgiving, with the Bears slipping to an 0-4-1 record. The season concluded with an embarrassing 3-0 blowout at the hands of a Stanford squad that finished 2nd to last in the Pac-12, but nevertheless seemed far superior.
“This season was more about getting the team together and cohesive as quickly as we possibly could, and a 12 week fall season wasn’t possibly enough time,” Grimes said.
Many reasons could be given as to why the Cal team performed so poorly this season. One may say the squad suffered from fatigue. The Bears played seven overtime matches over the course of the season and once had four over a two-week stretch.
Another justification could be the of youth on the roster. The Bears team featured 13 freshmen and no seniors, an unprecedented amount of inexperience.
Whatever the case, the Bears failed to live up to expectations for the 2011 season. However, the team’s possibilities look incredibly promising for the near future.
Freshman midfielder Seth Casiple was recently awarded the honor for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after tacking on a goal and six assists in his rookie campaign. Additionally, freshman Connor Hallisey was given the honor of all-conference Pac-12 after contributing two assists and assuming a prominent role in the midfielder for the second half of the season.
In combination with the return of first team Pac-12 defender Stephen Birnbaum and honorable mention junior midfielders John Fitzpatrick and Tony Salciccia, the Bears look to have a solid foundation to build on for the 2012 campaign.
Few will ever look back on the 2011 season in a positive light. But, at the very least, the seeds seemed to have been laid for a solid rebuilding effort.
“I think it’s just important for everyone to know that there’s a process when your program is going through a transition stage for your program,” Grimes said. “We’re going to have to keep building on the performances and not focus on the poor results.”
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