It was a David-and-Goliath matchup from the very start as the unranked Cal field hockey team (4-8, 1-2 NorPac) traveled to Chapel Hill to square off against the No. 3 North Carolina (9-2, 8-1 ACC). There was, however, no sign of divine intervention to be found, as Cal was beaten decidedly in a 4-0 rout to finish out its two-game road trip.
After taking only seven shots in an overtime loss to Duke, coach Shellie Onstead’s offense managed a dismal two shots against the powerful Tar Heels. The lack of offensive production appears to be in large part due to the absence of forward Andrea Earle, who was not in the starting lineup Sunday.
Earle is responsible for more than a quarter of the total shots and a third of the goals produced by Cal this season. Her presence was sorely missed, as the Tar Heels defense shut down any signs of an attack from the Bears’ offense.
North Carolina managed to expose every weakness in the Cal defense, pelting goalie Courtney Hendrickson with 40 shots. Hendrickson, in the barrage, did manage to set a school record for saves in a single match with 18, eclipsing her previous career high by six stops. This Herculean effort proved to be futile, as the Tar Heels established their dominance early and kept the Bears on the defensive for the majority of the match.
“(North Carolina) was concerned enough about us that they came at us pretty hard early and put a lot of pressure on the backfield,” Onstead said to Cal Athletics after the match. “It was a good game plan on their part, and we couldn’t get going. We had a hard time getting out of the backfield early, and it made it hard for us.”
Goals were scored by four different Tar Heels, two coming off of penalty corners. Midfielder Nina Notman and forward Loren Shealy — the two top scorers for North Carolina this season — each added a goal to their already impressive stat sheets. Midfielder Emily Wold had an assist and drove her season total up to 12 in what appeared to be little more than an exhibition of talent for a Tar Heels squad that competes in arguably the most competitive conference in collegiate field hockey.
While the Tar Heels were rolling, the Bears faced the same obstacle that has plagued their season: lack of offensive prowess. Cal has allowed 11 goals over four games and has been outshot 68-23 in its current three-game skid.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t put up a better game after Friday,” Onstead said to CalBears.com in reference to Cal’s near upset of juggernaut Duke just two days prior.
The Bears sit in third place in the NorPac West and will seek an opportunity to rebound against the struggling Yale next week in Berkeley. Onstead’s squad desperately needs a win if it is to simply regain some of the confidence lost in the downturn.
Due to poor offensive play, the Bears are backed up deep into a corner, and they will need to come out fighting if there is any hope for them to recover what seems to be a lost season.
Christian Legg covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].