The stage was set for a shootout between two evenly matched opponents at the IU Field Hockey Complex on Friday. Instead, the Bears were haunted by the same defensive woes that spoiled their 2013 campaign.
The defense looked better on Saturday, when the Bears wrapped up their trip to Bloomington with a 3-0 shutout against Ohio. Cal’s defense held Ohio to only two shots throughout the match. Meanwhile, the offense, led by Lara Kruggel’s two goals, unleashed 20 shots, overwhelming Bobcats’ goalkeeper Brittany Walker.
But against Indiana, star forward Audra Heilman tormented the Cal field hockey (2-2, 0-0 NorPac) defense in their match. In the face of additional defensive pressure, Heilman picked up three assists and displayed the porous nature of coach Shellie Onstead’s unit. In an offensive onslaught, the Hoosiers (4-0, 0-0 Big 10) emerged victorious, blowing out Cal by a score of 4-1.
Things started off well for the Bears, who were playing step-for-step with the Hoosiers throughout the first 15 minutes of the half. The offense gradually pressed into the circle, chipping away at Indiana’s defense. In the 16th minute, Cal finally broke through. Sophomore forward Monica Marrazzo streaked down the right flank and pushed the ball past goalkeeper Maggie Olson, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Onstead then turned to her defense to hold onto the early lead.
Cal’s defense held strong against the Hoosiers’ prolific offense, fending off eight shots and quieting Heilman through the first 25 minutes of regulation. As halftime rapidly approached, the Bears’ defense gave way. With extra defenders in coverage against Heilman, junior Nicole Volgraf was left unmanned. Heilman delivered a perfect pass, and Volgraf swept the ball past senior Cal goaltender Courtney Hendrickson to tie things up.
The Hoosiers, now digging into the holes in the Bears’ defense, quickly dealt another blow before the first half came to an end. Cal gave up a penalty corner with only 1.5 minutes remaining in regulation. Indiana back Karen Lorite, a junior, was left alone and received the pass in front of the cage. The goal that followed gave the Hoosiers the lead going into halftime.
The break offered Cal little relief.
Coming out into the second half, it appeared as though the defensive scheme remained the same: Cover Heilman at any cost. With bodies swarming her every time she touched the ball, uncovered Hoosiers began sprinting towards the goal. In the 54th minute, Heilman again found Volgraf with time and room, and the result was the same: a one-on-one shot against Hendrickson and an eventual goal, boosting Indiana’s lead to 3-1.
Two minutes later, with defenders all around her, Heilman delivered another perfect pass to a wide open Hoosier — this time, sophomore midfielder Kate Barber. Barber put yet another shot past Hendrickson and gave Indiana a back breaking 4-1 lead.
The blow of the final whistle seemed to be more of a mercy to the Bears than anything. The defense allowed fifteen total shots, four of which found their mark. Cal’s offense was nonexistent in the second half, unable to control the ball or put shots on target. If this game did anything, it put on display every weakness in the Bears’ system.
Again, the Bears were unable to sweep their weekend series due to their hot-and-cold play. Cal needs to overcome its inconsistency if it hopes to compete with ranked opponents down the stretch.
Contact Christian Legg at [email protected].
A previous version of this article implied that Courtney Hendrickson was pulled from the match due to poor play. In fact, it was a pre-planned move by Shellie Onstead to give Kori Griswold more playing time.