Cal falls to Maine, 2-1, in overtime of America East quarterfinals

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Sometimes, numbers lie.

The Cal field hockey team lost its sixth consecutive game Friday to Maine in the first round of the America East playoffs in a 2-1 overtime barn burner that was the Bears’ final game of the season. That final score, however, does not in any way reflect the ebb and flow of the contest — a game the No. 19 Black Bears looked to have let slip to their underdog, Cal, and had to rely on late-game heroics to pull out the victory. That number doesn’t reveal that Cal came out as if it were riding a five-game winning streak as opposed to a losing one and didn’t trail the heavily favored Maine for 72 minutes of gameplay.

Cal scored first and, from that point, locked Maine down defensively, as redshirt sophomore goalie Kori Griswold concluded her season with the stellar play that her 2015 campaign will be remembered for. The final score does not reveal that Maine snuck in a goal with less than three minutes to play in regulation and scored again quickly in overtime on a shell-shocked Bears defense that had already forced its goalkeeper to make 11 saves in the match.

Sometimes, numbers tell the whole truth.

The good news is that the Bears scored on every single one of their shots Friday — the bad news is that there was only one the entire day. The two teams left the field for halftime with Maine holding a 14-0 shot advantage on the Bears, and by the end of the game, the Black Bears had tallied 18 corners to Cal’s zero.

That sort of offensive ineptitude is the reason, and has been the reason all year, that Cal’s at times otherworldly defensive performance is rarely celebrated the way it should be — the defense is too often overshadowed by an offense unable to muster production when it absolutely has to. The Bears’ only goal in Friday’s game came against a completely empty net, and because of how well Griswold and the defense played for so long, the flabbergasted tap-in by freshman forward Janaye Sakkas nearly sent the Bears to the conference semifinals.

“I think we were really strong on defense throughout the game,” Griswold said. “Our biggest problem was that we just couldn’t really connect backfield to frontfield. We just didn’t have many offensive opportunities that really would’ve helped us.”

The game in many ways reflected the entire season that preceded it. The Bears took the lead, and held onto it until the very end, until a late collapse allowed Maine to register two goals in just six minutes.

The first score and the next ended Cal’s season — a season that opened so strong, with the Bears at one point owning a 9-4 record and an undisputed claim to the division’s top seed. It was also a season derailed by a late collapse, their sixth loss in a row, ushering the Bears into the offseason.

“This year was a great stepping stone,” Griswold said. “We had a lot of moments that showed how good we can play, and I think we will really build on those.”

Austin Isaacsohn covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].