Cal field hockey finishes season with losing streak

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NOVEMBER 11, 2015

For 30 golden minutes, the Cal field hockey team had its mojo back. When freshman forward Janaye Sakkas scored early in the second half against Maine, the Bears seemed to finally regain their long-lost form. Cal could fall back to the strategy that led it to victories in nine of its first 13 games — letting the defense bring home the win. Cal was on the verge of ending its five-game losing skid, against a conference favorite to boot.

On this day, however, it was not meant to be. Just as it was not meant to be in the five games that preceded the Bears’ loss to Maine in the America East Quarterfinals. A year that started so strong ended not with a bang but with a whimper. And when the Bears silently walked off the field after Maine slapped through the golden goal in overtime, they had to be asking themselves where their game — and season — had gone.

The fall of the Bears was a long time coming. Cal had always walked a dangerous line between being defensively dominant and offensively challenged. The question after every contest also remained whether the stellar defensive play was designed tactically or forced by the inability of the offense to bail their team out with timely scores.

The Bears scratched and clawed their way to success for so long, it became second nature. They began to thrive in the crucible of high pressure from not only the close games but where those games were being played. Underhill Field’s construction meant the Bears were permanently displaced for the entire season. The team didn’t play a single game in the city of Berkeley and were oftentimes forced to play “home” games on their opponent’s field. Despite all of these circumstances, however, the Bears still remained in first place of the America East’s West division with six games to play. That’s when everything seemed to finally get to them.

Before the end-of-the-year losing streak, which began Oct. 18 against Stanford, the Bears averaged 2.23 goals per game — not much by the standard set elsewhere in the conference, with schools such as Albany averaging a full goal more. The defense, however, seemed to feed off the added expectation and held opponents to only two goals on average. They weren’t winning big, but they were certainly winning.

From then on, Cal mustered only 1.67 goals per contest, and the defense could no longer pull the weight for both sides and cracked, allowing 3.8 goals per game — nearly double what they had been conceding prior.

The whole team, especially ace redshirt sophomore goalie Kori Griswold, simply began to show the wear and tear of an entire season spent under pressure. Therefore, the loss to the Black Bears on Friday was, in some ways, befitting for a Cal team that looked so good for so long, then fell apart at the end.

But the Bears can look to next season with confidence. Cal will return 93 percent of its roster, which scored 95 percent of the team’s goals and 94 percent of its earned points. The team believes that the heavily relied-on youth that was occasionally plagued with inconsistency throughout the year will soon learn the veteran mentality necessary to pull out games in November. That’s not to discredit, however, the young players who carried this team to many of its victories.

Cal’s most productive players on both offense and defense were underclassmen, from freshman forwards Melina Moore and Sakkas pacing the team in points scored to Griswold winning three AE Defensive Player of the Week nods. For the Bears, it truly is only a matter of time until they realize just how good they can be.

Contact Austin Isaacsohn at 


NOVEMBER 12, 2015

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