About a week ago, the Cal women’s soccer team opened the season with mixed results, winning its home season opener on Aug. 19 against Cal Poly but losing against Santa Clara just two days later.
Luckily, the Bears didn’t have to wait long to get back on track, as two opponents entered Edwards Stadium this past weekend with both looking to upset Cal at home. The first opponent came Friday: New Mexico, a team that lost 1-2 to No. 19 Texas Tech the last time it played.
The first half of the match was marked by all-around great defensive play, as both teams did everything they could to prevent their opposition from scoring. The Lobos’ offense came out strong, with senior Maddie Irwin shooting two balls on goal in the first three minutes of play. Junior goalie Emily Boyd was prepared for both shots and easily blocked both attempts without too much pressure.
The first score of the day didn’t come until the 45th minute when redshirt junior midfielder Kelly Fitzgerald scored off an assist from freshman forward Kayla Fong. The two showed tremendous chemistry by starting a give-and-go play from about 25 yards out. Fong’s inexperience as a freshman was nowhere to be found when she kicked a perfect above-the-box pass to Fitzgerald, who completed the sequence by scoring the first goal of the game.
This goal came with just 30 seconds remaining in the half, giving the Bears much needed confidence heading into halftime.
Cal came out in the second half ready to play, dominating the Lobos the rest of the game by securing their second home shut out.
The second half against New Mexico proved to be much of the same, with redshirt senior Ifeoma Onumonu scoring another goal for Cal in the 54th minute. Onumonu was able to score after UNM’s goalie blocked a shot from senior Emma Fletcher. Cal would end the game by edging the Lobos on the stat sheet, shooting three more shots on goal than UNM when it was all said and done.
This team victory was historic considering it was the first time Cal has had shutout wins in its first two home games since 2007.
“The test of New Mexico was very real — we had to stay very structured defensively, and we knew it would be hard to break them down,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “We’re very strong defensively, and offensively we’re growing, so we’re looking forward to our next upcoming games.”
But the weekend was far from being over. The Bears had a much more difficult task on hand the following Sunday, when they faced off against Portland at home. The Pilots entered the weekend 2-0 on the season, demolishing rival Portland State by six goals Aug. 26. Junior Hannah Griffiths Boston was in attack mode throughout the 90 minutes, leading her team to victory by scoring three goals.
But fortunately for the Bears she was unable to carry over the same energy from the previous game. Despite not scoring in the first half, the Bears had several shots that were just inches from going in. The most exciting play early on came in the 41st minute, when the top right corner crossbar robbed Onumonu. This was the closest either team got to scoring in the first half, as Cal’s defense only allowed three shots in the period.
Cal was finally able to find a break in the second half, when Fitzgerald kicked in her second goal of the season off a penalty shot. The Bears’ defense then drove the team to a 1-0 victory in the match, making the weekend even more historic by securing their third home shut out victory to open the season.
“This game against Portland was the best of our season so far,” Fitzgerald said. “I knew my penalty shot had to go in so that was my mindset.”
Alex Quintana covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].