Cal sophomore defender Annia Mejia made her way into the 16-yard box in the 77th minute and patiently waited for one of her teammates to cross the ball into the heart of the box. But just when it seemed that Stanford goalkeeper Jane Campbell was about to make another routine save, the ball slipped through the goalie’s fingertips. The quick Mejia didn’t take too long to react, as she scurried toward the ball and placed it into the back of the net to give the Cal women’s soccer team a 1-0 advantage.
“It was actually really shocking,” Mejia said. “When I first scored, I was shocked. I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ Everybody ran to me, and I got so excited.”
This goal — part of the latest installment in Cal and Stanford’s rivalry — was Mejia’s first in her career and notched on a Friday night that ultimately saw the two powerhouses settle for a 1-1 overtime draw in Palo Alto.
Neither team had taken the lead by the time the first half ended, despite their combined 11 shots. But were it not for Cal sophomore goalkeeper Emily Boyd’s four saves, the Bears would have likely trailed heading into the halftime break, especially considering that they didn’t force Campbell to make any saves.
The Cardinal showcased a better offensive game in the second half. Cal’s solid defense, however, helped to keep the Bears in the match, while its offense created several goal-scoring opportunities, as it tallied 11 shots to match Stanford in the last 45 minutes.
The visiting team’s tenacity would not go unrewarded, thanks to Mejia’s sharpness in front of the goal that gave her team a 1-0 lead. Even though the Bears had seemingly placed the Cardinal’s 10-game winning streak in jeopardy, Stanford got on the scoreboard three minutes after Mejia’s goal. A bad defensive clearance by Cal slowly made its way down toward Stanford defender Alana Cook, who didn’t wait to trap the ball and instead volleyed it toward Boyd’s lower right corner. The shot slipped through the legs of two Bears before it ultimately rolled into the net.
“It was kind of devastating,” Mejia said. “That goal was a simple mistake. It’s part of the game, but it could have easily been solved.”
Cook’s equalizer in the 80th minute ensured that the Cardinal would at least finish the regular season without a single loss in conference play, while the draw helped the Bears finish tied for fourth in the Pac-12.
Cal’s success this season can largely be attributed to Boyd, who made a career-high 10 saves in the bout. Her consistent form this year also allowed her to set the school record for single-season clean sheets.
Boyd’s solid performance between the posts this year will play a significant role in keeping talented opposition scoreless in the playoffs. With a strong defense led by Mejia, the Bears will have a decent chance to best last year’s second round exit in the NCAA tournament. A defensive lapse could prove to be the team’s demise, but if Cal remains level-headed against its foes and avoids any mishaps in front of its goal, a deep postseason run may not be out of the question.