After falling to Duke, 5-1, at Stanford’s Varsity Turf on Friday, the Cal field hockey team was looking to even its record to 1-1 on the season. The Bears proceeded to rout Bryant, 7-2, on Sunday, behind six goals from Cal freshmen.
“We don’t know how we are until we play, so we are going to go one step at a time, and after this weekend, we will be busy preparing for next weekend,” said Cal senior defender Clara Goni. “We are going to play new teams in a new conference, and it’s going to be really hard this year, but that’s how it’s going to be.”
Cal was heading into its matchup against the Bulldogs after falling to the No. 5 Blue Devils in its season opener, in which the Bears struggled to keep Duke forward Ashley Kristen in check. Kristen finished the game with a hat trick and two assists on seven shots.
On Sunday, however, the Bears’ defense proved to be much less porous, holding the Bulldogs to nine total shots on the day. After tallying a career-high nine saves against Duke, Cal redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Kori Griswold earned a save during her complete-game performance.
But the real storyline of the game was the overwhelming dominance of the Bears’ freshmen. Sunday’s victory — the first time the Bears scored seven or more goals in nearly four years — was a collective and resounding debut for the youngest members of the team.
The first goal of the game came from Cal freshman forward Janaye Sakkas in the 18th minute on an assist from junior midfielder Sydney Earle. Just before halftime, freshman defender Marie Lanckneus scored to give the Bears a 3-1 lead.
In the 45th minute, Sakkas recorded her second goal of the day on an assist from Goni, sneaking the ball between the legs of Bryant keeper Jenna Limone. Less than 10 minutes later, redshirt freshman midfielder Maddie Ashbrook scored, handing Cal an insurmountable 5-2 lead over the Bulldogs. Cal freshmen continued to pad the lead, with midfielders Bella Forbes and Melina Moore both scoring in the last few minutes of the game.
The Bears’ veteran players were also crucial to the victory, with junior forward Nicole Henriksson scoring off an assist from Forbes. Along with Goni and Earle, sophomore midfielder Paula Seibt also notched an assist.
Before the weekend’s games, Cal head coach Shellie Onstead spoke of the incoming freshman class, which makes up more than one-third of the team’s roster for the 2015 season.
“It’s a really big class for us — 10 new players — and I think there are several that are going to contribute right away,” Onstead said. “The returning group made an extra effort to spend extra time together in the summer, and I can tell that has really made a difference.”
The Bears will next face Louisville on Friday in Davis, the site of Cal’s next three games. The Cardinals, currently ranked No. 12 in the nation, will be a formidable test for the Bears before they face Stanford in their first conference game of the season Sept. 18.