Cal battles Santa Clara in Bay Area Classic finale

The battle over ultimate soccer supremacy of the Bay Area will reach its thrilling conclusion Friday afternoon at Edwards Stadium.

The Cal men’s soccer team (2-1-2) beat San Francisco in the its season opener and, now three weeks later, will face a rugged Santa Clara squad at 4 p.m. to claim the prestigious title of “Bay Area Classic” champion.

The regional derby also includes Stanford, who faced off against Santa Clara in its season opener and will play San Francisco this Saturday at the Farm.

“Santa Clara has several good players,” coach Kevin Grimes said. “They are a very good team and have many good qualities.”

Indeed, the Broncos (3-1-1) have a solid crew of standout players. Forward Erik Hurtado, a junior, was recently named the WCC Player of the Week. Even more impressively, Santa Clara returns all 11 starters from last year’s WCC Championship team.

But the past two years have not gone well for the underdog Bay Area compatriots; the Broncos lost to Cal, 2-1, in last year’s battle and 3-1 the year before. Meanwhile the Bears have gone 5-0 in the tournament since 2009.

Undoubtedly, Santa Clara will be seeking revenge for the Bears’ apparent dominance over the Bay Area. The Broncos have already created an impressive resume with only one loss this season. They have defeated Stanford, 1-0, and tied UCLA, 2-2.

UCLA, coincidentally, will be the Bears’ first Pac-12 opponent of the year. Although one should be cautious to apply deductive logic to sports, one could make the reasonable assumption that the Santa Clara game will be a good measuring stick for how the Bears will fare in their upcoming Pac-12 schedule.

“We play each other every year, so both teams are pretty familiar with one another,” coach Kevin Grimes said. “We know it is important to play good competition and Santa Clara is certainly a quality opponent.”

The Santa Clara game will signify the end of non-conference home games for the Golden Bears. After Friday’s tilt, the Bears will begin their preparations for a road game against Vermont in the Stanford Nike Classic on Sept. 23.
Even though there was a three-week break in between its two Bay Area Classic matches, Cal has not slowed down.

The Bears’ match against Kentucky on Sunday, for instance, was a wild ride. It concluded with a thrilling come-from-behind victory in which sophomore Kyle Marsh scored his first career goal to break a 2-2 tie with roughly 20 minutes remaining in the contest.

The Kentucky match was quite the test for Cal, and the squad isn’t taking the win for granted.

“I think it was one of those matches that could have gone either way,” said Coach Grimes. “Hopefully, this pattern of resiliency continues.”

If it does, the Bay Area Classic might not be the only championship within the Bears’ grasp.