Last minute penalty kick lifts women’s soccer over Santa Clara

Lianne Frick/File

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The first game between Bay Area women’s soccer teams Cal and No. 24 Santa Clara was in 1982, and the rivalry has only deepened since. Last season, the Bears lost to the Broncos in double overtime, which only added fuel to the fire. Coming off of a 2-1 win versus UC Irvine in the first game of the season this past Friday, Cal was riding a high. Despite an unimpressive first half Sunday, the Bears were able to soar to a 2-0 record.

Cal started the game slow and sluggish, while Santa Clara managed to dominate the  possession. The Cal midfield continually gave the ball away on small mistakes, such as bad touches or poorly aimed passes, while its defense did its best to hold the Broncos attackers at bay.

Only late in the first half did the Bears begin to pick up the pace, as players strung together passes and worked the ball toward sophomore forward Abi Kim. But just as Cal seemed to be getting into the swing of the game, Santa Clara sophomore forward Maddy Gonzalez managed to sneak the ball under the legs of Cal senior keeper Emily Boyd after a poor defensive clear, giving the Broncos the lead. With simple mistakes still plaguing the Bears as halftime approached, the team went into the locker room with almost nothing positive to show for the first 45 minutes.

A new Cal team, however, emerged onto the pitch after halftime, with more energy and focus than the one from the first half. In just five minutes, the Bears had arguably their two best chances from the day so far. They immediately matched Santa Clara’s pace and began to pass around the Broncos in the midfield, looking to play the ball up top to Kim.

The Bears took control of the game and were able to get off 13 shots while holding Santa Clara to just two. Just as the clock was winding down and the search for another goal seemed beyond reach, Kim was able to slide the ball past the Broncos junior keeper Melissa Lowder and even the score. This gave her three goals in two games, already tying her scoring total from the previous season.

With only 10 minutes left, Cal and Santa Clara turned up the energy and fought for a winning goal before the game was forced into overtime. The possession went back and forth, with both defenses doing well to shut down the opponent’s attack. Just as overtime seemed inevitable, Kim found herself sandwiched between two Broncos defenders and was knocked down inside the box. In a decisive moment, the referee awarded a penalty kick to the Bears, which redshirt senior Kelly Fitzgerald placed into the back of the net to put Cal in the lead. Santa Clara couldn’t score in the short time remaining, and the Bears were able to exact their revenge on the Broncos from the 2016 season and won, 2-1.

Thanks to two goals in the final 10 minutes, Cal was able to maintain an undefeated opening weekend. Cal head coach Neil McGuire also became the program’s all-time winningest coach with 126 wins after this weekend. A strong start to the season is exactly what every team hopes for, and as the Bears settle down, winning may become just another part of the routine.

Sophie Durham covers lacrosse. Contact her at [email protected].