Cal field hockey loses heartbreaker against No. 15 Stanford

Zainab Ali/File

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Everyone knows the feeling where your heart just drops.

This weekend the Cal field hockey team is looking to avoid the “heart drop” it felt after its overtime shootout loss against No. 15 Stanford last Friday.

The Bears (3-7) will be flying out to the East Coast to face Vermont on Saturday and Maine on Sunday in Orono, Maine. While both of these opposing teams compete in the America East conference, the weekend will not count as conference play because neither team is in the West division with Cal.

Its first challenger, Vermont, has gone 6-7 so far this season, beating Northeastern but falling to Pacific, one of the division rivals that Cal will be facing next week. Vermont sophomore Landon Warren has scored the most goals for the team this season, with eight. But Vermont’s most impressive statistic is that it has made almost twice as many saves as its opponents combined. Junior goalkeeper Lena Benwood averages an objectively high seven saves per game.

Despite their impressive 9-4 record, Maine, Cal’s second weekend opponent, is not ranked within the top 25 because it has not beaten any nationally ranked teams. At the start of the season, however, Maine was consistently beating teams by margins of three or more goals.  Junior forward Madison Cummings has scored 11 goals already this season, which is almost double Cal’s leading goal scorer sophomore Janaye Sakkas, who has six. While Cummings is the leading goal scorer for Maine, her team in general averages almost 18 shots per game.

Last year in the America East Quarterfinals, Cal faced off against Maine and was leading the whole game 1-0, until the 68th minute when the Black Bears were able to convert on a penalty corner. Fewer than 30 seconds later, Maine logged another goal on a Cal turnover and ended up winning the game 2-1.

“(The upcoming games) will get us really tuned up for the conference tournament at the end of the year,” said Cal head coach Shellie Onstead. “Maine is a rematch from our conference tournament last year, and I don’t think we gave them a very good showing so the kids are eager to get back out there.”

Last Friday, the Bears ultimately fell to the Cardinal in an exciting game that exhausted both overtime periods and went to a tiebreaker shootout. Ball possession was very even throughout the game, however, and special recognition can be given to the Cal defense and junior goalie Kori Griswold for holding Stanford to only two regulation goals even though it amassed over 20 shots.

“I really thought we were going to get the next four games so I am disappointed in this (Stanford game), but we are really looking to get the next two,” Onstead said.

Cal’s key to success against Vermont will be to get creative with its shots and pressure the goalie in order to have a better chance of scoring. To defeat Maine, the Bears need to channel similar energy on defense that they did against Stanford and prioritize marking and pressure within the semicircle.

“(The weekend) really comes down to what got every player here. The fundamentals,” Sakkas said. “I am excited to get some more competition in before conference play.”

Lucy Schaefer covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected]