Standing at the exit would have been enough to know the result of the Cal women’s soccer team’s game Sunday — the 1-0 loss to Arizona (5-3-2, 2-1-0) was written all over the team members’ faces as they walked off the field. While players tend to be chatty and energetic after a win, Edwards Field was silent as the Bears stretched and cooled down, with bowed heads and slouched shoulders.
Cal (8-2-1, 1-1-1) started off a bit slow, unable to control the tempo and losing the ball in the middle because of sloppy passes. The Bears appeared discombobulated offensively — instead of playing their usual calm and slow game, they were sending long balls forward, generating unnecessary turnovers.
Arizona’s defense packed the back, causing trouble for sophomore forward Abi Kim, who had a hard time turning against a Wildcat defense that was stepping hard to every ball. Kim and the other Cal forwards were consistently faced with numbers-down situations, making it difficult to string passes and exploit gaps in Arizona’s defense.
“Compared to our Thursday game, we came out really strong today,” said senior midfielder Guro Bergsvand. “At the halftime talk we talked about how it was getting there — we needed to just keep winning those balls, keeping the ball on the ground and really finding out width.”
The second half was a marked change for the Bears, as they were able to possess more fluidly and move the ball laterally, forcing the Wildcat’s defense to shift and creating new openings. They were subsequently able to create more opportunities — putting up nine shots in the second half as compared to four in the first.
The Bears nearly put the ball in the net in the 51st minute, when senior midfielder Heather Walleigh drove the ball down the right side and slotted a pass into the box. Arizona’s keeper was able to make a save, but the ball deflected to the feet of freshman Luca Deza. It should have been a certain goal, but Deza put it over the open net.
Cal was able to get more opportunities throughout the rest of the half — but so was Arizona. Beginning in the 71st minute, the Wildcats had a slew of opportunities coming from four corner kicks in a row. The Bears were able to nearly escape the onslaught without being scored on, but it set the stage for Arizona’s goal, which came in the 75th minute.
After senior goalkeeper Emily Boyd came out to strip the ball from an Arizona attacker, a subsequent shot on goal was deflected by a Cal defender. The Wildcats were able to get control of that deflection and put the ball in the back of the net, securing a late-game lead. After the goal, the Bears ramped up their attack — pushing everyone forward and going for goal.
“We weren’t sharp enough, we should’ve battled for that second ball, and they were quicker than us and managed to get that one in, but we should’ve been there,” Bergsvand said.
An equalizer nearly came in the 89th minute for Emma Westin, but Arizona’s goalkeeper was able to make the save, and time ran out with the Bears still at a 1-0 deficit, resulting in their first loss of the season.
While losses are a fact of life for athletes, this one seemed to hit the Bears particularly hard, shattering a seven-game streak in which they had showed themselves to be unbeatable. Next game, they will look to re-establish the trend that they had worked so hard to create.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]