For a team that had not won its past 10 games, the Cal men’s soccer team put on a spectacular display. The Bears (1-0) faced Santa Clara team on the road for their season opener and came away with a 2-1 victory last Friday at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Head coach Kevin Grimes, who did not release much of his starting roster until the day of the match, kept his goalie decision behind secret curtain until the final day.
Grimes was torn on this decision throughout last year, flip-flopping regularly between Peach and junior Robby Gogatz, before finally selecting the former on Friday.
Peach played a solid game, saving three shots but letting in only one goal. The sophomore’s performance was instrumental in the victory, as there were many questions about the position going into the game. Along with Peach, a solid defense helped the Bears keep Santa Clara to one shot in the first half.
“In the first half, I thought the whole team was excellent, we played good defense and had a great first 45 (minutes),” Grimes said. “Our guys showed great heart and togetherness out there.”
Although the Bears opened the season 1-0, their game was not perfect. The first half was an excellent display for the squad, but the second half showed just how quickly this group can regress to its old form. In the second half, Cal allowed Santa Clara to take six shots, twice as many as it took.
“We were keeping them on their heels in the first half, and in the second half, we just didn’t do that,” senior defender Tony Salciccia said.
The Bears took the lead in the 17th minute when midfielder Alec Sundly scored the first goal. But in the In the 71st minute, the game exploded with a pair of goals when Salciccia converted a penalty that put the Bears up 2-0. Just 13 seconds later, substitute Glenn Vass put in an unassisted goal that brought Santa Clara back into the match and began a charge in the late stages of the game.
A major disruption in the Bears’ game plan was senior striker Erik Hurtado, who did most of his damage in the second half. Although he did not score, the WCC scoring champion got off three shots, just missing the target in the 81st and 83rd minutes.
Despite Hurtado and the Broncos’ efforts, the Bears clamped down when they needed to even when Santa Clara had the momentum later in the second half. Substitutes such as Connor Hallisey and Ryan Neil provided the perfect bursts of energy the team needed to hold the lead.
The substitutions had a major impact of the game, rounding off a solid performance from the squad. They picked up right where the starters left off, coming together and withstanding a slightly sloppy second half, gaining a win that shows the team’s resilience and toughness.
“You have to rely on your heart and a lot of battle,” Grimes said. “These guys relied on each other and that’s the reason they came out on top.”