Less than a week after the No. 20 Cal women’s soccer team (9-2-1. 2-1-1) pushed forward to find an equalizer as time dwindled against Arizona, the Bears found themselves on the opposite side of the ball. With Colorado desperately searching for a goal, Cal’s defense was tasked with the difficult mission of holding a solid line while the Buffaloes offense charged full speed ahead. Despite this barrage, the Bears were able to hold steady and emerged from the game with a 1-0 victory.
It was apparent from the onset that Cal was determined to not have a repeat of its first loss Sunday. The Bears came out with a physicality that had been missing in their matches against Arizona and Arizona State. While it was by no means the most beautiful game they have played this season, the Bears challenged hard for 50/50 balls on both the ground and in the air — a grittiness that paid off in the end.
“We just really needed to adjust our mental toughness and how bad we wanted to win things like balls in the air and 50/50 balls, just the little things,” Gifford said. “In terms of tactical, we talked a lot about marking … and how to keep the wide flanks open.”
The finesse and composure on the ball that has been characteristic of this Cal team, while bursting through at certain moments, was by no means the norm in this game. Each team put up just four shots in the first half, with the Bears forcing Buffaloes goalkeeper Jalen Tompkins to make just one save in the 45 minutes. Despite the lack of shooting, though, Cal was able to come up with a vital goal that would eventually win it the game.
The Bears’ single score came in the 37th minute on a play from freshman Kailee Gifford, who had been subbed in less than a minute prior. Gifford netted her first goal of the season after a cross came from sophomore Kayla Fong, which Gifford one-touched into the back of the net after making a looping back post run.
“We talked all week about our video scout on Colorado that they leave the back post wide open, so then when I saw the ball on the other side, I knew from the film that I would be open if I took my time and held back a little bit,” Gifford said.
After that goal, the Bears buckled down, thwarting the repeated efforts of the Buffaloes. Senior goalkeeper Emily Boyd made five saves in the second half on 10 Colorado shots, many of which came from dangerous corner kicks.
“It goes back to how hard we worked this week on getting mentally stronger — we were running up to balls, we were doing everything to make sure that the ball didn’t end up in the back of our net,” Gifford said. “In the end, Emily Boyd, Indigo Gibson, the whole back line stayed compact and unified, and in the end, that helped us keep the ball out of our net.”
The win comes at a vital time for the Bears and signals that their loss to Arizona won’t be the start of a new trend.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]