No. 18 Cal women’s soccer gets crucial road win over Arizona State

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Lianne Frick/File

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Last night, the No.18 Cal women’s soccer team traveled to Arizona to compete in its final road trip of the season. With the playoffs just around the corner, the Bears knew it was imperative to begin the final road trip with a victory over Arizona State.

It also served as an opportunity for the Bears to get back on track after suffering a devastating last-second loss in the previous game.

Cal was able to do just that, escaping Sun Devil Stadium with a gritty 2-0 shutout victory. Cal head coach Neil McGuire also had a historic night, tying the record for most wins in school history by a head coach with 124.

“Every win our program has ever had is because of the players, and I feel very blessed to be part of that,” McGuire said.

The Bears offense came out very hesitant, recording one shot on goal in the first 27 minutes. This came in the 11th minute from senior Emma Fletcher, who shot the ball from the top right of the box. But she put too much power behind it, sending the ball over the left of the net to set up an opposing goal kick.

In the 19th minute, Arizona State freshman Olivia Hernandez attempted to give the Sun Devils the lead with an offensive drive of their own, taking the ball through multiple defenders down the left side of the box. But Cal junior Emily Boyd proved why she’s one of the best goalies in the entire nation, throwing her body at the ball to deflect it out of bounds.

She stopped another goal from scoring in the 26th minute, when junior Madison Kmetko powered a precise shot on target from the top right of the box. Boyd established a clear sense of positioning, diving left to deflect the ball out of bounds.

The Bears ended the first half playing as a team unit, finding and getting the ball to open teammates. All of this eventually paid off in the 75th minute when senior Kelly Fitzgerald fired a beam from more than 20 yards out to score her fourth goal of the season.

The ball was placed perfectly through top right of the net, just out of the reach of ASU redshirt junior goalie Megan Delaney.

And all it took was nine more minutes for Cal to place the final nail in the Sun Devil’s coffin. Senior Arielle Ship was able to score Cal’s second goal of the game off a penalty kick, which was awarded after an off-the-ball foul on senior Emma Fletcher.

Cal only needs one more win this weekend to finish its final road trip of the season in perfect fashion. The Bears won’t have to travel far for their second game in a week this Sunday as they’ll attempt to gain a victory over Arizona.

The Wildcats are entering this game off a 4-0 Thursday night loss to Stanford. The Cardinal dominated Arizona the entire matchup, never allowing their offense to get in rhythm.

Despite their loss, the Wildcats are entering this matchup with players that can easily make a difference. ASU’s done a remarkable job of playing unselfishly this year, with a total of nine different players having at least one goal on the season.

If the Bears are able to finish off their final road trip with yet another win, one thing is certain: They’ll prove that they’re a serious threat in the playoffs no matter what field they step on — home or away.

“Arizona is a very threatening offensive team, they can hurt you with multiple weapons,” McGuire said. “They can run a play or create opportunities from set pieces, so we have to be very wise on how we defend and keep them off the score sheet.”

Alex Quintana covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].