After halftime, only down 5-1, the Bears came off the bench motivated. Senior captain Jena Fritts scored a goal in the first 10 seconds of the second half, and Cal looked to be in the midst of a second-half comeback. But Denver quickly retaliated. The Pioneers scored three goals in five minutes before senior captain Caroline Schlegel could get Cal’s next point.
It was a tough start to the season.
The Cal women’s lacrosse team (0-1) fell to Denver (2-0) 15-5 in its season opener at California Memorial Stadium on Friday night. While the Bears managed to hold their own in the first half, Denver came at them full force in the second half and was able to secure its lead.
Cal had the first goal of the game in the second minute when senior Elizabeth Pellechi scored, falling into her role as the leading goal scorer for her team in 2016. But that would be their only goal of the half, while Denver scored five goals and Cal sophomore goalie Jenny Wilkens made 10 saves.
After Schlegel’s goal in the second half, there was a nine-minute period of no goals from either team. The Bears were able to keep composed while down by five points until Denver broke the silence and distanced their lead to make the score 9-3. After this, Denver took control of the game and scored six more goals, while Cal was only able to put in two.
Despite the Denver bombardment of goals, Wilkens was the hero of the day, with 13 total saves.
“We played a lot of defense that game,” Wilkens aid. “I would say the majority of the game was spent in our defensive end, and our four main defenders, Sara Nolte, Charlotte Biffar, Alex Robertson and Wheatley Raabe, really had my back out there.”
One takeaway of the game for Wilkens was the need to work on transitions. She noticed that despite the stops made on defense, many times the ball would be turned over in the transition, whether it was Denver forcing a bad pass or their own fault.
This game gave the freshmen their first opportunity to represent Cal. Noelani Murayama scored her first career goal on a free position shot, a shot given after a foul in the eight-meter arc in front of the goal with no players within four yards of the shooter, in the last six minutes of the game to bring the score to 11-4.
“The freshmen are definitely going to be contributors,” Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks said. “They add a spark and they complement the veterans we have on the offensive end and in the midfield, so I think they’re going to be great options that we have.”
Cal is fighting a relapse into a losing pattern after this loss, something which has defined their past two seasons. In both 2015 and 2016 the Bears began their season with a loss, and went on to finish second to last in their conference. Cal hopes to bounce back fast when it takes on its first MPSF conference opponent, the Oregon Ducks, for the first road game of the season Sunday.
“We want to keep up our team energy and keep positive,” Wilkens said. “If we keep positive then we will keep pushing each other to be better and work harder and be stronger in the future.”
Sophie Durham covers lacrosse. Contact her at