For the past month and a half, the Cal women’s soccer team suffered from its inability to score goals, producing a measly 11 goals in the last 12 contests.
And on a rainy Friday night in Stanford’s Laird Q. Cagan Stadium, it delivered the final blow on the Bears’ season against No. 21 Boston College. After 110 scoreless minutes, the team lost on penalty kicks, 3-1. Even during the penalty shootout, only 12 yards away from the goal, Cal still couldn’t place the ball inside the net.
It was not the first time that the Bears’ season came down to penalty kicks. Last week against No. 11 Santa Clara, Cal won the shootout, largely due to the heroic saves of backup goalkeeper Kat Messinger. Messinger was ineffective as a shotstopper between the sticks, frozen in place whenever an Eagle took the shot.
All three missed penalty kicks came from the three players — midfielder Taylor Comeau and defenders Danielle Brunache and Emi Lawson — who outplayed the rest of the Bears throughout the entire game. The defensive partnership of Brunache and Lawson kept the Boston College offense at bay and the Bears’ chances of victory alive.
Brunache, who scored the winning penalty against Santa Clara, failed to make her penalty, booting the ball yards above the goalpost. Lawson followed suit, as her shot was saved by goalkeeper Jillian Mastroianni.
“Penalty kicks are always like coin flips,” Lawson said. “Last week, we were on the good side and this week, we weren’t. It’s a tough way to go.”
If effort was rewarded in the match, the Bears would have cruised past Boston College. Despite being outshot 18-16, Cal produced far better goal opportunities than the Eagles did.
The first 15 minutes of the match were sloppy and ineffective, filled with botched passes and several miscommunication problems for both teams. But after the 15-minute marks, it was all Bears, as they controlled the pace of the match and put Boston College in a defensive shell.
With the offense running through the passes of attacking midfielder Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick, Cal hovered around the Eagles’ penalty box like a pack of vultures for the next 30 minutes. But they lacked the killer instinct to capitalize one chance into a goal, unlike when they chalked up 30 goals in the first 10 matches.
The second half then turned into an offensive ping-pong match, with each squad basically taking turns to score that elusive first goal.
In the 82nd minute, Cal forward Rachel Mercik had the best chance of the half, when a blown defensive coverage left Mercik in a 1-1 with Mastroianni. Mercik chipped the ball in hopes of floating the ball past Mastroianni into the net, but Mastroianni’s fingertip save veered the ball just away from the net.
“Their defense was definitely beatable,” Mercik said. “We were just unlucky as a whole.”
In overtime, little offensive action happened as both squads looked physically exhausted to find that first goal. Heading into the penalty shootout, the Bears remained very confident to win it, as they did last week. It seemed at that moment, that fate was on their side.
“We thought this season would never end,” coach Neil McGuire said.