After falling to Boston University, Cal field hockey squeaks past Maine

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Out of the comfort of the warm California sun and into the heart of Boston, the Cal field hockey team (6-10, 2-3 NorPac) came away with a 2-1 victory over Maine (9-8, 2-2 America East), splitting its two-game road trip after a 3-1 loss to Boston University on Friday. Coach Shellie Onstead’s squad looks as if it is finally playing up to the preseason hype, winning two of their last three games before returning to Berkeley for its season finale.

The game was decided early in the first half. Maine drew first blood, opening up the scoring with an unassisted laser from midfielder Annabelle Hamilton off of a failed clear from Cal. But the Bears’ offense was undeterred, and Maine’s early lead would not last. Cal needed only a minute and a half to respond, as forward Jordan O’Reilly found an open Nicole Wallstedt at the top of the circle. Wallstedt unleashed a backhanded shot and beat Maine goalkeeper Natasha Ford to tie the game.

“It was kind of like Friday, where we let them score first and then woke up,” Onstead said to CalBears.com. “We had a rough start and then played good hockey. It was nice to see that we responded the way that we did.”

Only four minutes after Wallstedt’s goal, offensive powerhouse Lara Kruggel beat Ford again off of an assist from both Natalie Gibbens and Shannon Elmitt to give Cal the lead and eventually the win. It was Kruggel’s seventh goal of the season. The junior forward has posted six goals over the last five games and is emerging as the Bears’ most formidable offensive weapon as of late.

The swing in momentum was as swift as the scoring. Cal gained control of the match and never looked back.

It was certainly a game of quality over quantity, as Maine outshot Cal 21-8 but failed to find the back of the net beyond its early score. Cal’s shot selection was far more prudent, as Maine’s Natasha Ford was unable to post a single save in the first half. The bulk of the Black Bears’ shots came in the last 15 minutes of play, as they desperately attempted to send the game into overtime. The Cal defense was unfazed and shut down the Maine attack in the second half.

Much of Cal’s defensive success was a result of standout goalie Courtney Hendrickson, who continued in her role as a fortress between the posts, stopping nine shots and bringing her season total in saves up to 124 and her save percentage to .795. The Bears’ defensive unit as a whole stepped up in the second half, denying the Black Bears offense on every advance made into the circle late in the game, holding on to the one-goal lead and preserving the win.

“At the end of the game, they had some good chances, and Courtney made some awesome saves,” Onstead said to CalBears.com. “The injuries have slowed us down, but we’re starting to put things together.”

Cal will return to Berkeley ready to work as the team prepares to take on NorPac rival No.11 Stanford in a revenge match on Maxwell Family Field in its season finale on Thursday.

Christian Legg covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].