In soccer, the mark of a good defensive team is a bored goalie, and it’s a testament to Cal’s fastidious fortification this weekend that senior goalkeeper Emily Boyd was practically twiddling her thumbs in her box. In Boyd’s 180 total minutes of play, she had to make zero saves, and her lack of action was welcome news to the No. 17 Bears, who racked up two wins against Oklahoma and higher-ranked No. 14 Oklahoma State.
Cal (7-1-0) started the weekend winning spree Friday afternoon, with a 2-0 win over the Sooners. The Bears, continuing the offensive trend that has been consistently present throughout the season, put up 21 total shots — seven of which were on frame. The first of those shots to make it to the back of the net came in the 39th minute, when freshman Caroline Clark drove the ball up the left wing and slotted the ball on the ground back to junior Miranda Nild, who finished for her fourth goal of the season.
The Bears continued to rain shots on a discombobulated Oklahoma defense and eventually were able to capitalize for a second time. The second goal came after freshman Emma Westin pressured the Sooners’ defense, stole the ball on a careless back pass to keeper McKinley Crone, and finished in the 90th minute.
And while Cal put up a barrage of shots in the game, Oklahoma tallied just four — none of which forced Boyd into action.
The trend was much the same in Sunday’s matchup against fellow Sooner state opponent Oklahoma State, which resulted in a decisive 3-0 victory for the Bears. From the outset, it was clear that Cal had found — and would retain — its groove. Center midfielders redshirt senior Kelly Fitzgerald and senior Guro Bergsvand controlled the tempo, keeping possession in the middle with seemingly little defensive pressure from the Cowgirls.
“We’ve been talking all weekend about getting to the third pass, because if we get that, then we’ll be able to establish more play,” Bergsvand said. “When we get to the third pass, we have the game in front of us with more control, and we can attack with more numbers.”
And attack with more numbers they did. Despite Oklahoma State’s attempts at thwarting Cal’s offensive attempts by overloading the box with defenders, the Bears were able to get multiple dangerous shot attempts through to challenge Cowgirl goalkeeper Michela Ongaro. The goal came in the 45th minute from sophomore Mia Corbin (her first of the season) after the ball had moved around in the box between multiple Bears.
Cal worked the ball seamlessly through the back throughout all 90 minutes, switching it from side to side and throwing Oklahoma State out of position, opening easily exploitable gaps in the Cowgirls’ shape. Those gaps were exploited twice again in the second half — first by Bergsvand, who dribbled the ball through the open middle and shot a ball to the bottom left corner from just outside the 18-yard box.
“I got [the ball] in the center mid and saw I had a lot of space in front of me, and then I got to the top of the 18 and was like ‘OK, I’m going for this,’ and fired,” Bergsvand said.
With a comfortable 2-0 lead, the Bears appeared to loosen a little, allowing Oklahoma State to look more dangerous than it had so far, but not dangerous enough to involve Boyd. Once again, the keeper was left with little to do as the Cowgirls put up only six total shots.
To close out the match, the Bears scored again in the 82nd minute, this time when senior Heather Walleigh finished after a combination play in the middle between Westin and freshman Luca Deza.
The two weekend wins cap off a five-game win streak for the Bears, and as they head into Pac-12 play, they’ll be looking to continue the smart possession and lockdown defense that has lead to this season’s wins.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]