No. 19 Cal women’s soccer featured excellent defense, a few crucial letdowns

Kayla Brown/File

In a memorable season with a disappointing end, the No. 19 Cal women’s soccer team (13-6-1, 6-4-1) had many ups and only a few, crucial, downs. The Bears had just one loss before facing beginning the Pac-12 portion of their schedule, and they managed to maintain a shutout streak for five conference games before facing the teams that were ranked above them in the conference. Three losses right at the end of the regular season didn’t even distract Cal from the NCAA tournament, but a 2-1 loss with a 10-man team in the first round cut its goal of a national championship run short.

The defense was the most impressive part of the team this season. Senior goalkeeper Emily Boyd made a career-high 80 saves and had 10 shutouts this season, more than proving that she deserved the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year award. But Boyd wasn’t alone in the back; the defense as a whole ranked second in the Pac-12 for both goals allowed (9) and goals-against average (0.46).

The Bears’ offense was consistent throughout the season, even if it wasn’t always the focal point. Cal was shut out in just five games, and it had a total of 257 shots. The leaders on offense didn’t vary throughout the year; sophomore Abi Kim and junior Miranda Nild were neck and neck with each other all fall, and they ended the season tied with 7 goals each and 38 and 37 shots, respectively. The Bears had 12 players score 1 or more goals — a remarkable amount that demonstrates the extent of the talent they have throughout the roster.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of the Bears was their constant second-half mentality. For many teams, not having a goal by halftime means that the game is already lost. For Cal, however, the only thing that mattered was the buzzer at the end of 90 minutes. Out of the 26 goals Cal scored, 16 of them were scored after halftime, which showcased the team’s endurance and fitness and also led to many dramatic finishes.

But playing dramatically isn’t necessarily a good thing; It’s important to capitalize on all opportunities, or else the team may not be able to recover, similar to what happened to the Bears in last three games of the regular season. There is room for development, and Cal must address this aspect of the team before next season, or else it may find itself in an identical situation.

Cal is saying goodbye to six seniors this season, all of whom have made a lasting impact on the team. Boyd, of course, was the team’s star goalkeeper and broke multiple program and conference records all fall. Indigo Gibson was the backbone of the defense, and despite a saddening end to the season due to a red card, she set the standard for how a solid defense should look. Haley Lukas was back on defense as well, and she played in every game alongside Gibson while managing to get off seven shots and two assists. Heather Walleigh was found both on defense and as a forward, which allowed her to take 18 shots and score 1 goal this season.

Moving up the field, the Bears are losing two midfielders: Kelly Fitzgerald and Guro Bergsvand. Fitzgerald, a redshirt senior, was active on the field and finished the season with 23 shots, three assists, and 1 goal. Bergsvand was injured for the majority of the past two seasons, but she was a key player in the midfield this year and could always be seen moving on and off the ball.

The season may have just ended, but it’s never too early to look ahead. Cal has some impressive returning talent and will hopefully have new freshmen ready to play as well. By focusing on this season’s achievements and mistakes, next year’s team should be able to improve and return to the Pac-12 better than ever.

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

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