Everyone loves the magic of a thrilling comeback, but realistically, winning after falling behind by a large deficit is the exception, not the rule, and this weekend brought Cal lacrosse a double dose of this lesson.
The Bears fell to Pac-12 foes Oregon and Colorado on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
The dark and gloomy weather in Eugene, Oregon, on Friday night set the stage for the Bears to start off. After only four minutes, they were down by four goals before owning a single possession. With 26:14 remaining in the first half, Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks called timeout to help her team put its disastrous start out of its mind.
Out of the break, the Ducks won the draw control and sped off towards the Bears’ goal. Oregon’s senior defender Jill Zubillaga cocked her stick back, and as she released, it looked like Cal’s perilous slide would continue. But the Bears’ junior goalkeeper Jenny Wilkens scooped Zubillaga’s shot out of the air to make Cal’s first defensive stand.
The Bears would go on to hammer home two straight goals, and they spent the rest of the game battling the Ducks evenly, but the rough start could not be overcome. Ultimately, the Bears dropped their first Pac-12 conference game, 7-12.
Cal did not have a chance to reflect on the game very long, as they had to travel to Colorado on a very short turnaround. Saturday morning, the Bears took a two-hour bus ride from Eugene to the Portland airport. After landing in Boulder and losing an hour, Cal began practice for its Sunday morning game.
“Definitely more (traveling) than I’ve ever experienced (in that time period),” Eubanks said. “It’s not an excuse but … now that we know what that feels like, we can better prepare our bodies and minds.”
The Buffaloes did not welcome the Bears to their home field any more warmly than the Ducks did. Up 6-0, the Buffalo bench’s biggest worry was hitting its dance moves on beat.
Last season the Buffaloes reached a highest ranking of No. 5 in the country and went on to the NCAA tournament. Colorado was voted to finish second in the Pac-12 by the preseason coaches’ poll.
“I think it took us a little bit to feel as confident as we needed to be, because we have the skill, the players who can compete at that level — I think it’s just a matter of consistent experience at that level and confidence,” Eubanks said.
After getting worked 11-2 in the first half, the Bears put up a stronger fight in the second, matching the Buffaloes nearly stride for stride. But again, Cal’s early collapse could not be surmounted, and Colorado sent Cal home with a bitter 15-5 loss.
“With that game it was … a tale of two halves. First half, Colorado definitely dominated, and then second half, we were able to make some adjustments,” Eubanks said. “Hopefully next time when we meet up, we’ll be able to make those adjustments quicker.”