For five minutes toward the end of the first half, the Cal lacrosse team held a tentative 7-6 lead over Denver University. After a scrambled faceoff, Cal’s Melissa Humphrey took an easy penalty shot to break the 6-all tie.
For five minutes, it looked like Cal had a shot to control and perhaps win Wednesday’s home contest.
But the final score speaks otherwise, as Cal fell, 16-13. The team gasped throughout a disastrous second half – including a 5-0 Denver run – to notch its second conference loss.
“The team was very hungry,” Cal coach Ginger Miles said. “We weren’t going to give up.”
With a little over one minute left in the first half, the Pioneers (4-1, 2-0 MPSF) netted the ball to tie the score once more. And just as the clock at Witter Field hit zero, the visitors took one last shot that sailed inside the net. Cal was behind, 8-7, heading into the halftime intermission.
From that point on, the conference matchup would always be a battle for the Bears (3-4, 2-2 MPSF). The team would have to shift momentum considerably. One goal would only break a tie; two would barely give the team a lead. But at halftime, it wasn’t yet an impossibility.
When Cal got the first goal of the second half to tie the game 8-8, it looked like the momentum would permanently shift in the Bears’ favor.
But neither team could find solid rhythm. The game downshifted into a six-minute scoring drought that Denver eventually broke to shift the lead once more.
“Instead of answering back, we looked defeated,” Miles said. “We lacked emotional composure. You could see it in the body language, the action on the field.”
The advantage stayed with Denver for a while.
The Pioneers launched a four-goal tear shortly after that initial point. The spree was as much a product of Denver’s offense as Cal’s lack thereof.
“The draw, it starts there,” Cal attacker Megan Takacs said. “In the center, with whoever gets the draw control.”
Although the Bears won 21 draw controls, the team couldn’t capitalize on that early boon and hardly penetrated Denver territory. When Cal was in possession, the opponents’ unleashed a stifling, double-team pressure that Cal crumbled under. The Bears coughed up a staggering 14 turnovers throughout the game.
“Turnovers killed us,” Takacs said. “It was little tiny things, overpassing, passing too short.”
Meanwhile, Denver utilized a scrappy style of play that allowed them to cut through Cal defenders for close shots from the wings.
Yet Cal wasn’t totally expended. The team nabbed three consecutive goals soon after to bring the score to 12-13.
But as Miles herself said, it was “too little, too late.” As in the first half, Denver played violently until the final seconds.
“We couldn’t stop the bleeding soon enough,” Miles said. “We weren’t able to stop their momentum.”