Ship hit the fan for Saint Mary’s on Sunday, as junior forward Arielle Ship and the rest of the No. 16 Cal women’s soccer team put an end to the Gaels’ undefeated streak with a score of 2-0.
A pregame cameo appearance from Cal’s marching band delivered a healthy dose of Cal spirit to not only the players on the field but also the fans in attendance, who were sharing the bleachers with a fair number of Saint Mary’s fans who made the short drive from Moraga, California, to Berkeley.
Right away, Saint Mary’s (5-1-2) displayed its offensive skills and made its way into Cal territory to test sophomore goalkeeper Emily Boyd with a shot in the early minutes of the game. It seemed that the Bears might have their hands full handling the Gaels’ offense.
But just as quickly as Saint Mary’s took control of the game, Cal (5-1-1) was able to take possession of the ball and keep it in Gaels’ territory for much of the first half. The story then became less about the Saint Mary’s forwards and more about the team’s defense and goalkeeper. The Bears squandered the multiple opportunities that they had, missing all seven shots delivered, and headed back to the locker room with the score 0-0.
“We have to credit Saint Mary’s coming in with a great game plan to take away some of the things that we do well, and we had to be smarter on how we played in the second half,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire.
McGuire and his team moved away from a traditional 4-3-3 system during halftime and opted to replace a defender for an extra midfielder with a 3-5-2 during the second half. This helped Cal eventually tack on the go-ahead goal. It was none other than Ship, the Pac-12 leader in goals and points, who put Cal on the scoreboard against a Gaels defense that had stopped them completely for the previous 66 minutes.
With assists from senior forwards Celeste Boureille and Ifeoma Onumonu — who leads the Pac-12 with five assists — Ship was finally about to defeat Saint Mary’s goalkeeper Julia McDonald and take a 1-0 lead for the Bears. The ball remained on the Saint Mary’s side of the field for much of the remainder of the game, similar to the first half.
“Our first line of defense is always our possession, so we want to keep the ball so they don’t get the opportunity to go forward,” McGuire said. “But when they did have the ball, I felt that our backline and midfield did a very nice job.”
The final goal of the game once again came by the swift kick of Ship, who scored on a penalty kick with a little less than two minutes left to end the game, 2-0.
Sunday’s win wrapped up a perfect two-game homestand for Cal, who also beat UC Riverside on Friday. The Bears will head to San Francisco next weekend riding a three-game winning streak with an offense and defense that have proven once again that they are forces to be reckoned with.
Chris Tril covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].