The start of the second half marked the turning point for the game.
In Friday’s contest, both Villanova and the Bears were tied, 5-all, heading into halftime. However, the Cal lacrosse team stepped up its game right from the beginning of the second period, causing turnovers and netting shot after shot to launch a 5-1 run in the last 30 minutes of the game.
In Villanova Stadium, Cal notched a 10-6 victory to improve its series record with the Wildcats to 4-0.
The Bears started off the game one step ahead of the Wildcats. With 10 minutes left in the first period, Cal held a tentative 5-3 lead over Villanova. However, the Wildcats netted the last two goals of the half to knot the game.
The Bears outshot Villanova 19-13 and clearly had the advantage in ground balls. However, Cal was not running away with the contest. Rather, the team couldn’t find the back of the net, and shots sailed high or wide.
Yet the Bears’ sporadic scoring droughts were more the product of their opponent’s lethal defense. Wildcat goalie Amanda Hirschfield made eight of her 11 saves in the first period to keep Villanova (2-7) paced with Cal.
“Our shot selection was just a little off in the first half,” Miles said. “But we made adjustments after halftime to put the ball in the back of the net.”
During the halftime break, the Bears (5-5, 2-2 in the MPSF) discussed how to improve shot selection, according to both their position on the field and that of their opponent.
Their fine-tuning paid off, as junior attacker Megan Takacs nabbed her third goal of the game just 11 seconds into the period. From that point on, Cal took a lead that it never relinquished.
The Bears finally found a solid rhythm, as they consistently recorded draw controls and forced turnovers for Villanova. Through its advantage in ball possessions, Cal was able to outshoot and ultimately outscore the Wildcats. While Villanova was only able to get one shot in — by senior midfielder Justine Donodeo — four different players contributed to the Bears’ 5-1 run in the second period.
Takacs and senior midfielder Vail Horn scored a game-high three goals each. However, the Bears demonstrated their depth and overall team effort, specifically in the second half, as several players got their names on the scoreboard. Takacs and midfielders Paige Gasparino, Emily Abbood and Vail Horn all notched goals in the second half to help Cal clinch its 10-6 win.
“Our ball control was very good,” Miles said. “We were able to really pull away from Villanova in the second half — get balls back, cause some turnovers. We were really proud of the effort.”
Cal will return to the West coast to play conference opponent UC Davis on Wednesday, April 4, at 7 p.m. in Davis, Calif.