The weekend’s matchups provided an effective measuring stick for the Cal field hockey team: It stands clear above the riff raff of the Ivy League and far below the field hockey royalty of the Big East. After maintaining its usual ice-cold demeanor in an overtime win over Brown on Friday, Cal was administered Sunday a healthy shellacking by the No. 1 team in the land, losing, 10-0, to the UConn Huskies (9-0). After going 1-1 over the weekend, Cal now stands at 6-4 on the season and in first place of its division in the America East Conference.
Overtime wins are becoming standard operating procedure for Cal. Friday’s Battle of the Bears started slowly, as neither team took control in the first 20 minutes. Brown, however, would draw first blood five minutes later, as Ellie Seid broke away from the pack and buried a shot behind Cal’s AE Defensive Player of the Week, redshirt sophomore goalie Kori Griswold.
After falling behind, 1-0, the Bears relied on their youth to carry them to victory. After modifying its game plan at the half, Cal came out of the break firing. Freshman defender Marie Lanckneus capitalized on a penalty corner in the 45th minute, knotting the game up at 1-1 in what would be the final score of regulation.
In overtime, as always, the Bears found their groove. Fighting an entire match’s worth of exhaustion, both teams began substituting players in the extra period. It would be Cal’s newly subbed-in freshman forward Janaye Sakkas, however, who would clinch the win. Delivering a slap shot from the top of the arc in the 82nd minute, Sakkas tallied the golden goal after spending less than two minutes on the field.
It was a close call, but a win’s a win, thus marking an improvement in the mindset of the Bears, as the team has struggled in the past with teams that present less of a threat than the highly ranked programs they’ve beaten.
“Good teams find a way — we found a way,” said Cal head coach Shellie Onstead to Cal Athletics while also noting that “great teams don’t get in a hole to begin with.”
The Bears then ran head first into a great team Sunday and got run right over. The University of Connecticut is the premier field hockey program in the country, and it played like it. The Huskies dropped 10 goals on the Bears, showcasing a terrifyingly consistent offensive attack that scored six points in the second half. UConn sophomore Charlotte Veitner scored her nation-leading 17th and 18th goals in the game and added an assist for good measure.
What was most demoralizing for the Bears, however, was the unbreakable UConn defense. The Bears registered a single shot on goal and were shut out for the second time this season. The team simply had no answer and was out-classed by the Huskies in every facet.
But the loss was by no means a death sentence for a team that still maintains a winning record. Cal surely will not play another team that rivals the talent of the Huskies, and the Bears’ only ranked opponent on the upcoming schedule is Stanford, which they beat, 2-1, earlier this month. The most difficult stretch of the season seems to be behind them, and if the Bears can continue to have success against teams they should have success against, the occasional blowout at the hands of a top-notch program shouldn’t knock them from their first-place standing in the division.