No. 12 Cal women’s soccer splits weekend series against St. Mary’s, UC Davis

Jihoon Park/Staff

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There weren’t many surprises in the world of sports last week. CM Punk lost in his UFC debut to Mickey Gall, an actual MMA fighter, and the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos once again beat Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers.

But unfortunately for the No. 12 Cal women’s soccer team, last week was far from predictable. The Bears entered last weekend as favorites in their matchups against St Mary’s and UC Davis.

The Bears finished the weekend going 1-1, shockingly losing to the Gaels, a team that entered its Friday home opener without a single win on the season.

The Gaels entered this game with a regular season record of 0-5-1, so being the heavy underdog came at no surprise. Still, it didn’t take long for the Bears to realize that they were in for a dog fight — a fight much more competitive than anyone could’ve predicted.

Cal had several opportunities to score in the first half of the match, but the ball never broke past St. Mary’s experienced senior goalie Julia McDonald. The first shot of the day came in the 7th minute from Cal’s junior midfielder Kelly Fitzgerald, resulting in a block. This was one of eight shots that the Bears had in the first 45 minutes, vastly outperforming the Gaels’ two shots.

Still, it was clear during the first half that Cal was going to have a long day ahead of it. And picking up a win wasn’t going to be as easy as it had originally hoped.

The script completely changed in the second half, as it was St.Mary’s that was now leading the offensive charge against the Bears. The Gaels proved in the end that their lackluster two-shot first half was merely a fluke. They turned things around when it counted in the second half, outshooting Cal 6-3.

The first score of the day came in the 52nd minute, when junior Valerie LaForge volleyed a brilliant pass to senior teammate Samantha Dion. This pass by LaForge was right on target, as it left Dion all alone with Boyd after almost being called offsides. And it didn’t take long for Dion to take advantage of the opportunity, chip-shooting the ball in and putting St. Mary’s ahead 1-0.

St.Mary’s freshman forward Jaylen Crim gave the Gaels an insurance goal four minutes later. This secured the 2-0 win for her team’s home opener, upsetting the Bears in a shocker.

The Bears knew they needed to turn things around in their following game against UC Davis, as losing two games in a row just wasn’t an option.

“We had a tough loss Friday so we came out super motivated and prepared to do very well,” said sophomore forward Miranda Nild.

The Bears returned home Sunday to compete against the Aggies in their final match of the weekend. Cal came out with tons of energy, ensuring that its poor performance two days earlier didn’t repeat itself.

This time it was junior defender Annia Mejia who put the team on her back, finding great position in the box and scoring off a corner kick in the 21st minute. This put the Bears ahead 1-0 heading into halftime, knowing they had no time to slow down if they wanted to end the weekend with a win.

The Bears put on a clinic the rest of the game, offensively dominating the Aggies. Cal would go on to win this game 4-0, which included goals from Arielle Ship, Abigail Kim and Nild.

“This game was a vast improvement from Friday. We were not in good rhythm or good tempo that day, and as a result we lost the game to a well-disciplined team,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “We were much more organized and sharper today, and systematically we kicked the ball very well, which allowed us to score a lot of goals.”

Alex Quintana covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].