Cal field hockey splits results against Penn State, Bucknell

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The weekend for the Cal women’s field hockey team was a tale of two stories. The Bears traveled across the country to Pennsylvania to face two tough opponents. The first match for Cal came Friday, when the Bears faced No.14 Penn State, a team that was coming off a 3-1 victory over Bucknell. Cal would pull off the huge upset, beating the Nittany Lions, 3-2, and establishing the first victory over Penn State in school history.

“This win was huge on so many levels,” said Cal head coach Shellie Onstead. “It’s great for the team to prove to themselves that they have the ability to beat a highly ranked team.”

The Bears were entering the Penn State match coming off a gritty 2-1 win over Indiana the previous Monday. Cal started off the game against Penn State very hesitantly, having only one shot on goal in the first half. This shot came in the 14th minute from freshman forward Janaye Sakkas, who shot the ball just wide of the net.

But the match was all about sophomore goalie Kori Griswold and her miraculous saves that occurred throughout the day. Griswold definitely came to play Friday, especially when it came to the first half — a half in which she saved seven shots from going into the net. The offense of the Nittany Lions was strong right off the bat, but it wasn’t able to get anything into the net.

“(Griswold’s) been pretty solid all year and is continuing to help us stay in games,” Onstead said.

The game continued to be scoreless heading into the second half.

The second half of the game was a completely different story. Penn State’s freshman forward Aurelia Meijer was finally able to get past Griswold, scoring the team’s first goal in the 53rd minute. Unfortunately for the Bears, it didn’t take long for the Nittany Lions to strike again, scoring only four minutes later in the 57th minute. The goal came from freshman midfielder Gini Bramley, who scored her first goal of the season.

From this point on, however, it was all about the Bears, who were finally able to get the ball down field and put some points on the board.

Just as in previous matches, a Cal freshman stepped up when it counted. This time, it was forward Melina Moore, who scored the first goal for Cal in the 67th minute off an assist from Sakkas. Moore was able to get the ball past Penn State freshman goalie Jenny Rizzo, who stopped two saves by the Bears in the second half.

With just minutes remaining in regulation, the underdog Bears were able to do the impossible. Cal junior midfielder Sydney Earle scored in the 70th minute off an assist from junior forward Monica Marrazzo. This goal came with only 43 seconds left in regulation, thus pushing the game into overtime.

Cal continued its resilient play, both on offense and defense. Griswold would once again show her defensive brilliance, blocking three shots from going into the net that would have instantly ended the game. This set the Bears up for an overtime victory in the 77th minute, as Marrazzo hit in the game-winning shot.

Cal’s win against No. 14 Penn State was one of the most significant victories in recent program history, especially when considering the fact that this was the first time the Bears beat Penn State. This win also marked the first time Cal beat a top-15-ranked opponent since 2011.

But the Bears were unable to carry this positive play into the rest of the weekend, as they would lose Sunday, 2-1, to Bucknell. The Bears were barely able to produce any offense against the Bisons — the opposite of what they were able to do against Penn State. Cal ended the day with only four shots on target, with their only goal coming in the 38th minute from Sakkas.

“We were better under pressure as a team against Penn State, but with Bucknell, we kind of got off track,” Onstead said.

Even though Cal went 1-1 on the trip, a weekend in which history was made can be called nothing short of a success.

Alex Quintana covers volleyball. Contact him at [email protected]