Cal women’s soccer beats Utah 2-0, Colorado 1-0

Maya Valluru/File

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The No. 20 Cal women’s soccer team (10-2-1, 3-1-1) heads home with a fresh take on its conference standing after two wins this weekend: a 1-0 win against Colorado on Thursday and a 2-0 win against Utah on Sunday. The win against the Utes, who have never beaten Cal, was the exclamation point on an already exciting weekend.

The Bears started the first half out of sync. The passing was sloppy, and first touches went flying into the air. Cal had trouble moving forward on offense and gave Utah plenty of opportunities defensively just by giving the ball away in the back.

About midway through the half, the Bears managed to find their rhythm and picked up the pace. Cal’s first goal came in the 19th minute, when senior Haley Lukas crossed the ball into the box and, after it bounced past sophomore Abi Kim, found freshman Luca Deza, who turned and hit it past Utah keeper sophomore goalkeeper Carly Nelson. The vitality the Bears gained from this goal quickly turned into another goal only a few minutes later. Deza split Utah’s defense as she played the ball through to Kim, who easily passed the ball into the net, putting Cal ahead by two at halftime.

“I think (goals) were two things that we scouted,” said senior Indigo Gibson. “We said their back post defending was something that we needed to expose, and that’s what Luca (Deza) did, and Abi (Kim) just used her pace to beat someone.”

Just as the sun came out from behind the clouds in the second half, so did Utah. From the start, the Utes came at the Bears with much more aggression and energy than the first 45 minutes. Cal, which was hoping to settle down and maintain possession this half, allowed Utah three shots in four minutes near the start of the half. Boyd was called on six times this half to make some impressive saves as the Utes outshot the Bears 10-3.

Even as Utah stepped up the pressure, Cal stayed calm and held its ground. The Bears continued to push forward on offense and had a few chances of their own, including a rocket by Gibson as she placed a free kick just under the crossbar, forcing a deflection by Nelson.

The physicality of the game increased as the clock ticked down, but the Bears held Utah at bay and finished the game 2-0, claiming their 10th victory and seventh shutout of the season.

“This was a really big game, just in conference play,” Gibson said. “I think we needed to separate ourselves from the middle of the pack, and I think right now just staying in the top four is what we need going into the later part of conference.”

Cal is heading into the final stretch of the season, with only six games remaining. None of them look to be easy wins, and the Bears are going to have to persevere and maintain their ranking in the Pac-12 in order to claim a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Sophie Durham covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected].