Cal lacrosse falls to Stanford, drops 3rd straight game

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In the early hours of St. Patrick’s Day, rain soaked Stanford’s Maloney Field, and the consequent slipping on the field was just as bad as the recent slippage of Cal lacrosse’s record.

The Bears began the season 4-2 — their best start in 11 years — but Saturday’s loss at No. 18 Stanford marks their third straight loss since then. From start to finish, the Cardinal played with an edge, ultimately blowing out their archrivals, 21-5.

Since Pac-12 play began, Cal has lost by a wider margin with each successive game, culminating in another loss at Stanford.

All afternoon, Cal’s offense looked frazzled and unconfident, as it tied a season low in goals scored for the second straight game.

Down 11-3 late in the first half, freshman attacker Nikki Zaccaro pushed into the middle of the danger zone, a step ahead of her defender. Zaccaro had a clear look at the goal but hesitated momentarily and kicked the ball back out. The possession ended in a turnover, and Stanford scored directly after.

On a few occasions, Cal broke through the ranks of Stanford’s aggressive defense and earned several chances to shoot from point blank range, but it simply couldn’t finish. Many of the team’s shots went wide of the goal or straight into the goalie’s stick, as the Bears failed to take advantage of Stanford’s spread-out defense.

The Cardinal’s ability to disrupt the Bears in the backcourt made it challenging for Cal to keep the ball away from its goal. Cal successfully cleared the ball only 9 out of 14 times, compared to Stanford’s 15 of 16. With time possession heavily favoring the Cardinal, the Bears’ shot attempts underwhelmed in comparison to their opponents.

Things didn’t get prettier when it came to free position shots either. Cal finished empty-handed on the day on such opportunities, posting a dismal 0 for 4 conversion rate.

It’s difficult to post an upset when a team’s leading scorer is held in check, and for the Bears, redshirt sophomore Kirsten Swanson had a quiet game. Outside of free position shots, the attacker was unable to attempt a single shot.

If there’s a silver lining to Cal’s slippery afternoon, it was Zaccaro, who played well despite her midgame mistake. Zaccaro led the team in points, scoring on each of her two shots and assisting on one other goal.

Even taking into account her team-leading three turnovers, Zaccaro’s skilled performance displayed a level of maturity uncommon for a true freshman.

On the other hand, Stanford’s most experienced player, fifth-year attacker Kelsey Murray, was the one who truly battered Cal’s defense. Murray controlled the game with a commanding six goals on seven shots, turning the ball over just once.

In addition to Murray’s colossal contribution, the Cardinal offense boasted an outlandish 10 other scorers. Overall, Cal’s 15 shots on goal was doubled by Stanford’s 30 shots on goal — not a recipe for success on the road against a ranked opponent. The Bears often found opportunities to shoot, but they were ultimately unable to capitalize.

Armen Aprahamian covers lacrosse. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @armnhammer_.