Slow start spells doom for Bears

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Cal had nothing to lose.

The team trailed by two points with only a minute remaining in a contest against No. 5 Arizona State. Coach Richard Corso pulled junior keeper Lindsay Dorst to gain an extra attacker. All the Bears could hope for was a comeback miracle.

Cal failed to score and the Sun Devils took the ball and floated it into the empty Bears’ net with only 27 seconds remaining in the contest, solidifying the 10-7 victory. Although that empty-net goal sealed the game, it was Cal’s slow start that may have doomed the squad from the onset.

“It’s never good to start out a game too slow even if your idea is ball control,” said junior Dana Ochsner. “Some teams come out more aggressive than us and how hard they come out sometimes surprises us.”

The Bears (15-5, 2-1 in MPSF) wanted to go into the game dictating the pace and using up the entire shot clock on each offensive possession. However, the team had to quickly rethink this strategy after falling behind the Sun Devils 3-0 in the opening minutes of the contest.

After senior Elizabeth Brightwell opened up the scoring for Arizona State (16-2, 2-0 in MPSF) at the 5:35 mark in the first quarter, her teammates slipped two more goals past Cal junior keeper Lindsay Dorst by the 3:00 mark.

The No. 4 Bears fell behind 5-1 within the first 30 seconds of the second quarter before finally picking up their game on teh offensive side. Goals from freshman Tiera Schroeder, junior Remington Price and sophomore Ashley Young brought Cal within two at halftime with the score reading 6-4.

Going into the third, Cal’s prospects had improved considerably. In a game earlier in the year against the Sun Devils, the Bears won the game in large part to a strong third quarter. The Bears were slowly clawing their way back into the game and were poised for another strong third quarter.

This time around, that didn’t happen.

Cal conceded two more goals in the third quarter and could not slip a single goal past Arizona State sophomore keeper Ianeta Hutchinson who finished with 13 saves in the game.

After the weak third frame, the once positive outlook now looked bleak for the Bears. Time was running thin on a team that used a lot of clock.

Although Cal junior Breda Vosters was able to breathe a little bit of life in the team with a goal at the 5:37 mark, Hutchinson made crucial stops when it mattered most.

Vosters scored two more goals in the final frame, pulling the Bears to within two with just a minute remaining. On Cal’s last significant offensive possession they failed to score and could only watch as the ball sailed over their heads into the empty net.

The upset is the biggest in Sun Devil history and the first victory for the squad against a top-four team since defeating No. 4 Cal in the 2008 season.

Cal will have to fly home from a disappointing start to a tough MPSF stretch that includes three more road games against No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 USC, and No. 6 San Diego State. The only home game left before the MPSF tournament may be the toughest yet, as the Bears play No. 1 UCLA on Mar. 7.