By beating Stanford on the field they now share, the Cal field hockey team proved that a home by any other name really would smell as sweet. The Bears sauntered into all-too-familiar territory Friday, keeping their cool against No. 6 Stanford and finding an overtime victory for the second time in the past week.
While this was technically an away game for Cal, the team’s lack of a true home field at UC Berkeley means the Bears will paradoxically call Stanford’s field one of their homes for the rest of the season. Cal’s win Friday improved its record on the season to 5-3 and sent an emphatic message to its cross-bay foes while renewing a rivalry that had been one-sided since 2011, which marked the Bears’ last win over the Cardinal.
The match was an uphill climb from the beginning for Cal. Stanford struck first and struck quickly, notching a goal off the first penalty corner of the game. The Bears carried the 1-0 deficit into halftime and came out determined on defense in the second half. Against an onslaught by the Stanford offense, Cal blocked all four shots taken in the first 10 minutes of the second period and then turned its attention to the other side of the ball.
After a flurry of shots that all came up fruitless, the game seemed equalized in the 66th minute when freshman forward Melina Moore scored on a put-back after Stanford goalie Dulcie Davis blocked an initial shot attempt by freshman defender Marie Lanckneus. After review, officials called back the goal, claiming the ball had bounced off Moore’s foot on its way to the back of the net.
But luck would soon turn for the Bears. Just a minute later, a shot off a penalty corner by sophomore defender Mara Gutierrez found paydirt. The goal was again initially ruled illegal. Another official review, however, overturned the ruling, and Cal finally found the game all tied up with regulation winding down.
Overtime quickly became a game of exhaustion. Playing ball control, Cal ran the Cardinal around the field for a few minutes, tiring Stanford out before strategically bringing in reinforcements. The plan worked to perfection, as junior midfielder Sydney Earle — just a moment after subbing in — scored the golden goal off an assist from sophomore midfielder Paula Seibet, clinching the 2-1 win.
“You make mistakes when you’re tired, so overtime is just about survival,” said head coach Shellie Onstead to Cal Athletics. “We were so much more confident on the ball in overtime. Now they can see that there’s a lot to look forward to.”
The overtime win is a huge confidence boost for a team that’s slowly finding its identity and was also an imperative rebound for Cal after it fell to unranked Bucknell — a team the Bears were expected to beat after taking down then-No. 14 Penn State Sept. 11.
This trend of playing down to worse opponents is a big reason Cal is still unranked despite now having two impressive victories over top-20 programs. If the Bears have postseason aspirations, they need to match the intensity they found against Stanford and Penn State on a more consistent basis. Otherwise, Cal’s notable wins will mean just as much as its “home-field advantage.”