Rodgers stars with hat trick as Cal field hockey splits opening matches

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Sometimes, what goes around comes around, and this weekend, Cal field hockey experienced both sides of the hula hoop — first with a 5-1 victory over Providence and then with a 5-0 loss to Maryland.

The Bears started slow in their season opener, as the Friars controlled possession for the first 15 minutes before Cal started to turn things around, scoring two goals right before halftime.

“I think it was major jitters,” said head coach Shellie Onstead. “It took us a half to figure things out. Everyone was really just playing a little too fast, a little too crazy.”

Once Cal did get comfortable, the team began to dominate: The Bears maintained possession for almost all of the second half, taking nine shots and scoring three more times to pull ahead for the win. Sophomore Megan Rodgers led the way with three goals and spearheaded an offense that flowed smoothly.

“This year, our team chemistry is a lot better,” Rodgers said. “(I) couldn’t have done it without my teammates — every single one of those goals was assisted.”

Even when Providence did get the ball, the Bears defense held up, limiting Providence to just six shots and two on goal. Junior backfielder Femke Delissen anchored the unit, frequently breaking up plays and forcing turnovers in the circle.

Freshman Brynn Zorilla was also immediately inserted into the starting lineup and provided support on both ends — assisting on one of Rodgers’ goals and disrupting Providence’s offense.

“She’s pretty seasoned,” Onstead said. “I first saw her play when she was quite young, and we had a feeling she might turn out this way, so now it’s going to be fun to develop her to see where she goes going forward.”

Zorilla, too, was excited to get in uniform for her first college game.

“I’ve been waiting so long for this moment, just to be able to put on the jersey with some of these people,” Zorilla said. “It really just felt natural right away. It felt like this is where I was supposed to be.”

In Cal’s second game of the weekend against Maryland, the then-No. 4 Terps shut out the Bears, dropping Cal to 1-1 on the season. Maryland capitalized on a 10-0 penalty corner advantage, scoring four of its five goals from corners in the decisive victory.

“We could see that they scored most of their goals on corners in their first game, and they have a world-class corner shooter, so (our plan was to) not give up too many,” Onstead said. “But I’m sure, conversely, their game plan was to get as many as you can, so I guess they won that battle.”

For the Bears, the matchup was the first of many against top-ranked teams, and Onstead believes the high level of competition will elevate the team’s play.

“Our whole season is like this, and by the end of the year we’re going to be very sharp,” Onstead said. “That’s all I ask from them — just get a little bit better every day, and by the end of the year we’re going to be very good.”

Tim Sun covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].