In the last game of its Southern California series Sunday, the Cal lacrosse team (2-10) was blown out of the water by No. 10 USC (9-3), ending with an embarrassing score of 21-4. The Trojans blew past the Bears unfazed and extended their conference record to 3-0, while Cal fell to 0-4 in conference games and continues to look lost on most trips to the field.
Nothing the Bears practiced could have prepared them for the level of talent they would face in this game. From the start, the Trojans won the ball and were relentless, passing around Cal as if the Bear defenders weren’t even there and taking shot after shot. On defense, they shut down any attack by the Bears and easily moved up the field with little pressure.
The second half flew by, as the running of the clock becomes continuous once a team leads by 10 points, which USC achieved a little over halfway through the first half.
Late in the second half, Cal began to find the loopholes in the USC zone defense. The Trojans scored 17 goals before the Bears could net their first, but with its structured attack Cal scored three consecutive goals in about four minutes. The Bears ended the game with more intensity and focus than they started with — a type of determination not often found in teams down by so many points.
Throughout the game, Cal struggled on offense with turnovers and the countdown of the shot clock. Its limited possessions made the ones it had even more important, putting extreme pressure on the offense. On some occasions, the Bears literally threw away the ball because of the aggression by the Trojans.
“One of the things that hurt us the most was our turnovers,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “I think we had 12 turnovers at the end of the first half, and we were able to turn it around and only had four turnovers in the second half. But we were kind of killing our own momentum, whether it was in transition or on the offensive end.”
The Bears’ defense was constantly under heat, with USC seamlessly transitioning from defense to offense and shooting within seconds. Sophomore goalie Jenny Wilkens made eight saves, which had little impact on the 34 total shots for the Trojans.
“When you’re seeing that many shots, it’s hard to stay in it, but (Wilkens) did a really good job of doing that,” Eubanks said. “She made saves throughout the whole game, and she was definitely focused and ready for any shot that was going to come her way.”
USC is not short of star players, and facing this talent is intimidating for any opponent, let alone a team with a .167 record. Junior goalie Gussie Johns and associate head coach Devon Wills were named to the 18-player U.S. Women’s National Team roster, and junior Lydia Sutton and sophomore Avery Hogarth have been named to the corresponding Canadian roster. Both teams will compete this summer in the 2017 Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s World Cup. Perhaps most embarrassingly, the Trojans didn’t even need big performances from any of these stars to blow out the Bears.
Cal faces a very difficult road on the path to qualifying for the MPSF tournament, and Eubanks has stated that the team will change the way they approach the uphill battle. Instead of focusing on the opponents and how to adjust itself accordingly, the Bears have decided to turn inward.
Cal had four losses by one goal this season, meaning that its record could almost just as easily be 6-6 as 2-10. So despite their ugly results thus far, by concentrating on what they need to work on and the mentality they needs to have, the Bears have a chance to find it in themselves to succeed in their upcoming games.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]