Rough season leaves Cal looking for more

Allyse Bacharach/File
Megan Takacs (32) set Cal's single-season goals record in an Apr. 12 win at Vermont. But the MPSF Player of the Year's season ended when she injured her knee, and the Bears lost their remaining three games by a combined margin of 14 goals.

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The 2012 Cal lacrosse team had its best season since 2005. But even the Bears’ 8-8 record left something to be desired.

After suffering several close losses, Cal went on a four-game winning streak in early April before losing Megan Takacs, the team’s leading scorer, to a season-ending injury.

Although the Bears came out with a 9-8 record last season — their first winning season since 2005 — Cal’s 2011 season was tainted with inconsistent play. The team never earned more than two consecutive wins. When head coach Ginger Miles took over the program last June, the Bears developed a new mentality, challenging the notion that they were simply a “second-half team” that would pull through in the last half of the match.

This year the Bears started off their season like last year, struggling to piece together a long winning streak. Although Cal opened up its season with a lopsided 18-6 victory over St. Mary’s, the Bears fell to No. 9 James Madison in their home opener.

However, Cal lost games in the first half of the season by only four-point margins or less. The Bears’ losses included a disappointing 10-9 loss to Oregon, who became the No. 1 seed in the MPSF Tournament. Cal also lost a close 16-13 matchup to conference foe Denver, which became the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

“We’ve lost a lot of close games this season — games that we really had a chance of winning,” Miles said in April. “But we have learned how to roll with the punches during a game and how to keep swinging when our backs are on the ropes.”

After the Bears came out of their nonconference match against Navy with a blowout 15-5 defeat, they strove to compensate for their early losses. After Cal’s game with the Midshipmen, the Bears went on a four-game win streak, starting with their game against Villanova, in which they garnered their first East Coast victory.

“(After) we just had a loss to Navy, the team was pretty down,” said senior Tori Harrison before the team’s final game against Oregon. “But Ginger came up to the defense before the game and said, ‘You have one task — to get the ball back.’”

“And the defense was relentless. It was a big turning point for the communication aspect of our defense, which improved from there.”

The Cal squad easily dominated UC Davis, and then used this momentum to slaughter conference opponent Fresno State by a 14-point margin.

However, just when they had hit their rhythm, Takacs suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Bears’ 15-12 win at Vermont. Without her, the team fell to No. 20 Boston College in one of Cal’s worst losses of the season, ending the team’s streak.

The Bears did not win again after losing Takacs, finishing the season 0-3. The Bears met Oregon for the second time in the MPSF Tournament semifinals, but their season ended with a 14-11 loss.

Although Takacs was injured this year, she and several other key players will be coming back next season. The team will return talent such as Takacs, attacker Melissa Humphrey and midfielder Paige Gasparino. With most of the same players returning, Cal will look to build on its success from this year.

If the Bears can find their rhythm once again, the team has the potential to produce another winning season.

“Although we had a lot of close losses this year, for a lot of people those were games that they didn’t even expect us to be in,” Miles said. “All the girls on our team know we’re capable of winning games like that — those tight games.”

“Our players have done a really good job of holding themselves accountable and not settling for less than their best.”