Yesterday, the No. 18 Cal women’s soccer team walked into Murphey Stadium to face Arizona, determined to make a statement in its last road game of the season.
The Wildcats were motivated in destroying any hope that the Bears had of raising their stock within the conference, in addition to sending their seniors off with a win in their final home game of their careers. In the end, the Wildcats were able to do exactly that, pulling off a 2-1 upset victory over the Bears.
“We didn’t play well enough today, Arizona deserved this victory because they dominated us for almost the entire game,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire.
Arizona junior Gabi Stoian made this upset win possible early on, slicing through the Bears defense and scoring her sixth goal of the season. This score came two minutes into the match after a Cal turnover in its defensive back line, instantly sending a message to the Bears that getting through them wouldn’t be so easy.
The Wildcats continued to put the pressure on for the rest of the first half, who at times outmatched their opponent. Cal junior goalie Emily Boyd was able to stop the bleeding early on before it got worse, making four crucial saves in the first 30 minutes. Her most clutch save of the first half came in the 13th minute off a shot from junior Cali Crisler, who found an opening after beating a Cal defender with a cutting move to the top of the box.
“Throughout the season, the defense has done a very nice job of helping Emily, and today she had to help out our defense,” McGuire said. “So we need to give great credit to her that she was able to step up for the team.”
The persistence of Cal’s offense eventually paid off in the 30th minute, as it was awarded a penalty kick after a hard foul inside the box. That was all redshirt junior Kelly Fitzgerald needed, tying the game at one-all by scoring her fifth goal of the season. The match remained tied the rest of the first half, but it was clear the Wildcats could’ve easily been in the lead. The Bears were outshot 10-4, fully aware that they needed to be even more aggressive in the final 45 minutes.
In the second half, Boyd proved why she’s arguably the best goalkeeper in the conference. She kept her team in the match by making back-to-back saves just over 20 minutes into the second half.
The first of these came in the 66th minute against Stoian, who was only inches away from scoring her second goal of the day. She took an open shot from inside the box, forcing Boyd to dive and make a one-handed save. And senior Paige Crouch was Boyd’s next victim, being stuffed in the 67th minute.
Cal’s offense came close to scoring a couple times in the second half, but no balls were able to find the back of the net, sending the game into overtime.
It was a junior, Crisler, who won the game for the Arizona’s seniors. She brilliantly positioned her body in the 109th minute, getting the ball into the back of Cal’s net after deflecting a clearance. The Bears had to leave Murphey Stadium fully aware that their conference, and national, rankings would likely fall.
Still, with the playoffs just around the corner, the Bears have no time to put their heads down.
Alex Quintana covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].