The rainy weather this past Friday didn’t stop the Cal lacrosse team from winning its first conference game of the season. The Bears (3-10) blew past St. Mary’s (1-10) in a 20-10 win, and now they officially have their foot in the door for qualifying for the MPSF tournament.
“We just talked about how each conference game is just as important as the next, and it really doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” said Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks. “We have a certain amount of wins we need to get in order to get into the MPSF, and we are making that our focus.”
The beginning of the game was a surprise to everyone in the stadium. The Gaels, who have won just one game this season and finished last in the conference in 2016, were supposed to be the only team Cal was sure to beat. But to the surprise of everyone, the undeniable underdog heading into the matchup scored two goals in the first seven minutes to take the lead.
The shock, however, didn’t last long as the Bears quickly retaliated and scored eight goals in a row to firmly establish their lead. St. Mary’s was able to sneak in two goals before halftime, but it was nothing in comparison to the abundance of goals by Cal. The goals included a hat trick by redshirt-freshman Kirsten Swanson, which helped the Bears maintain the lead at halftime, 9-4.
Cal started the second half with a bang, when junior Parker Garrett won the draw control and scored in the first 10 seconds. Senior captain Caroline Schlegel also tallied one within the first minute. The goals were scored in chunks for both teams, but the Bears’ offense was clearly dominating any time it had the ball. Cal closed out the game with a season-high 20 goals.
Thanks to the comfortable lead, sophomore goalie Jenny Wilkens was replaced by freshman Makayla Ward with 15 minutes remaining in the game. In addition, a total of 31 players made it onto the field, with 11 of them scoring. The ability to rest their starters is a positive sign for the Bears, who have struggled on offense in the past.
“The players that are working hard every day in practice don’t necessarily get to see the field every game,” Eubanks said. “When you are able to put everyone in the game it just boosts everyone’s morale and everyone is excited to make that big play, so it’s definitely good momentum going into the next games.”
While Cal controlled most of the game, it struggled with ground balls — the Bears only won five of 16 in the first half. In the second half, however, Cal turned it around completely and won 12 of 15 ground balls.
“(The win) definitely gives us a lot of confidence because we were able to execute on multiple sides of the field,” Eubanks said. “We did a great job of getting the ground balls in the second half — which was a struggle for us in the first — we had consistency on draw controls and we had (11) different people put up points today, which really shows the balanced attack we are trying to go after instead of just relying on one or two attackers.”
Cal is slowly inching its way up the table, and is now seventh in the MPSF conference. Only four games remain in the season, including No. 5 Colorado as the season finale. This win gives the team something positive to push off of, but the upcoming games will prove to be challenging nevertheless.
Sophie Durham covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected]