Alie Zimmer set to help lead Cal field hockey to potentially fruitful 2015 season

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Cal field hockey disappointed last season with an 8-11 record, but the season was not completely devoid of silver linings. One of these positive takeaways was the emergence of Alie Zimmer, who showed flashes of strong play in an impressive freshman campaign and looks to be the future of the Bears.

While Zimmer started just four games, she played in all 19 to gain valuable experience at the collegiate level. She also produced significantly for the team with seven points, which ranked her fifth on the team. Despite Zimmer not starting 15 games, she racked up three goals for the Bears, which ranked her an impressive third on the team, tied with then-junior Clara Goni and the now-departed Nicole Wallstedt.

Zimmer captured NorPac Freshman of the Week honors during her first week of play last season for her heroic debut in the come-from-behind victory in the team’s season opener against Fairfield. In the game, Cal put pressure on Fairfield from the start but was unable to break through, leading to an early 1-0 hole. Zimmer helped the Bears retaliate when she hoisted a shot past Fairfield goalkeeper Caitlin Bennett to tie the game in the 49th minute. Less than three minutes into the overtime period, Zimmer fought through a scrum near the net to put another shot on goal. The strike went past Bennett, and Zimmer became Cal’s first freshman since 2010 to notch a game-winning shot.

“That’s exactly why I wanted Alie (Zimmer) to come to school here,” said head coach Shellie Onstead to Cal Athletics after the victory. “She knows how to find that goal.”

While Zimmer’s production and playing time leveled off over the course of the season, she still managed to make her effect felt in a limited role as part of the Bears’ offensive attack. Throughout the season, she compiled a shot-on-goal percentage of .692, which ranked second on the team, with 13 attempted shots and nine on frame. The aggressiveness and accuracy showcased by the freshman forward in a limited sample size is a good indicator of things to come, with an expanded role available for the taking this season.

Throughout the off-season, she has continued to actively work on improving her game and has been competing in challenging tournaments. Zimmer’s USA Gold Team recently captured a silver medal at the USA Field Hockey Young Women’s National Championship in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The team won its first three matchups against USA Blue, USA Red and USA White but ultimately dropped its last game, 4-2, to the Patriots.

The departure of several key leaders and players for the team — such as Lara Kruggel, Andrea Earle and Wallstedt — clears the path for an athlete to emerge to fill their void. Kruggel, who started 14 games for Cal last season, was able to notch 12 goals on 56 shots and 31 on frame for a shot-on-goal percentage of .554. Earl put up five goals and had a shot-on-goal percentage of .600. Wallstedt notched three goals on a .619 shot-on-goal percentage. Zimmer seems poised to help replace part of the production that this stellar veteran trio provided the team and may help change the tides for the struggling program in its attempt to break through in the Pac-12.

Shiktij Dave is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].