A flurry of maroon uniforms came flying onto the field at the end of the game, leaving an exhausted Cal women’s soccer team in shock after being eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The No. 17 Bears (13-6-3) — seen as favorites heading into the matchup — were slow off the field after a 1-0 loss to Loyola Marymount University (14-5-1).
The Lion defense made key blocks in the game to keep the pace from shifting in Cal’s favor. Three minutes into the match, senior forward Ifeoma Onumonu had the opportunity to take the lead for Cal but was parried away by LMU’s redshirt freshman goalkeeper Charlee Pruitt.
The first half came with several unsuccessful attempts on goal for the Bears — missed chances that would prove costly later on. An undefended Celeste Boureille missed a gift goal in the 13th minute by shooting wide right and prolonging the stalemate, causing loud groans from disappointed Cal fans waiting for a lead.
The follies continued for the Bears, as a ball left unattended by sophomore defender Annia Mejia was quickly gobbled up by LMU’s Shannon Kent, who was presented a scoring opportunity that was barely blocked by Cal’s sophomore goalkeeper Emily Boyd. Poor handling by Boyd in the keeper box later in the game also gave LMU’s Cassidy Nicks an opportunity to score mere feet away from the net, but the ball was promptly blocked.
The Cal defense couldn’t put a stop to its lapses and insecurity near the 16-yard box, which finally allowed the LMU offense to capitalize. Even with some bad passes early on, the Lions kept a tight matchup throughout and eventually took the lead. After a second straight penalty kick for the Lions, senior defender Callie Taylor made the short shot past Boyd to give LMU the 1-0 lead in the 39th minute.
“We didn’t show up to the extent that we needed to,” said Cal junior midfielder Emma Fletcher. “There was a lot of lapses up front as well. All over, the field wasn’t as good as it needed to be.”
The sloppiness continued for Cal in the second half, as the tide clearly shifted toward the Lions. Cal’s offense gave up the ball up too easily to LMU, and the defense hung onto the ball for far too long before eventually clearing the ball out of bounce or being reeled in by Boyd.
The scoring opportunities were still there for the Bears, but poor positioning and bad luck continued to haunt them. Their best shot came in the 77th minute, when junior defender Kelly Fitzgerald was given a free kick, but her shot flew over the head of the keeper.
Desperation kicked in during the last 25 minutes of the game, as the Bears’ defense played the longball to try to give the rowdy crowd something to cheer about. The change in tactics was not able to change the result of the game, however, as LMU ran down the clock to move on to the next round of the championships.
“We wanted to win for our seniors but, we didn’t get to do it today,” Boyd said. “But we’ll come back in the spring and fight as hard as we can, and next fall, we’ll do better hopefully.”