Bears extend winning streak to eight matches

Kevin Foote/Staff

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On Sunday afternoon, the Bears huddled in a secluded corner of Edwards Stadium with a mood of solemnity surrounding them.

Then the squad let out a triumphant cheer in perfect representation of the weekend’s crucial wins.

After two hard fought games, No. 12 Cal women’s soccer extended its winning streak to eight. The Bears (14-3-0, 7-1-0) first overpowered Washington, 2-1, on Friday. On Sunday, the team recorded a come-from-behind win to defeat Washington State, 3-2.

Washington (9-5-2, 2-4-1) sits in the middle of the conference standings but played more like a team at the top.

In the 32nd minute, Cal midfielder Ariana Martinez crossed a ball to midfielder Betsy Hassett, who knocked it in with her head and put the Bears ahead, 1-0.

“I haven’t scored in a while, so I was determined to get a couple today,” Hassett said.

That lead was short-lived, and within two minutes goalkeeper Emily Kruger made a save. Yet she couldn’t hold onto the ball and allowed Washington’s Jaclyn Softli to pop the ball across the goal line.

In the 52nd minute, Emi Lawson sent a free kick soaring into the far corner of the box, where Hassett’s head again connected with the ball to give Cal a 2-1 lead.

After the narrow victory over Washington, the Bears returned to Edwards Stadium to face Washington State  (9-6-1, 3-4-1 in Pac-12).

The Bears struck within the first five seconds, as Emi Lawson fired a rocket soaring over the Washington State team right off the kickoff, giving the Bears an early cushion against the offensively savvy Cougars.

“I pulled Emi aside, and the wind was behind us and I felt like the goalie was a little high in the last game when I watched her, so we just kind of drew it up and they executed it magnificently,” said Cal coach Neil McGuire. “That doesn’t happen very often, it was a crazy goal.”

In the 26th minute, Kruger made a save but could not get up in time to block Nicole Setterlund’s rebound.

Within the first five minutes of the second half, Washington State’s Korynn Blanksma snuck behind the Cal defense to put the ball in the back of the net.

Down by one, Cal adjusted its offense to play top-scorer Onumonu higher against the Cougars’ defensive line. McGuire felt that the added offensive pressure coupled with her speed would create the goal-scoring opportunities that the Bears needed.

The Bears enacted this tactic as a through ball from Martinez in the 64th minute allowed Onumonu to burn the defense with her speed before slotting the ball into the lower right corner.

“In the locker room we talked about getting into the center and waiting for the ball to curve in from the center mid, which is exactly what we did,” said Onumonu.

Within three minutes, Cal defender Samantha Walker sent the ball up top to Onumonu, who outran the defense and sent another shot past Cougar goalkeeper Ariana Byrd.

“I think they gave a lot of heart,” said Cal forward Ifeoma Onumonu. “They played really well and it was a battle until the end.”

The two-win weekend keeps the Bears in contention for the Pac-12 title.

Taylor Brink covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]