On a chilly Monday night in the South Bay, the hotly contested Cal-Santa Clara rivalry cooled off a bit as the Broncos handled the Bears in a 4-1 loss. It is uncommon for such an early-season, nonconference matchup to carry so much significance on and off the field, but the Bears had hopes for revenge, as they were eliminated at the hands of the Broncos in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
In the uncharacteristically lopsided defeat, the Cal women failed to exhibit the tactically sound brand of soccer that fans have become accustomed to during the tenure of head coach Neil McGuire.
Monday night was only the second time the Bears conceded more than one goal in a game since the final match of the 2016 regular season, and the first since a 2-1 postseason defeat to the Broncos last year. It was also the first time in the last five Cal-Santa Clara matchups that the game was decided by more than a single goal.
Play began at a frenetic pace, as both sides traded brief spurts of possession up and down the field through the first 10 minutes of the match. That quickly changed in the 12th minute, when Santa Clara junior D.B. Pridham rose above Cal defenders to put a corner kick from redshirt senior Maria Sanchez into the back of the net.
While the Bears seemed to be playing on their heels after the goal, the Broncos settled into a rhythm and were able to dictate possession and control the remainder of the game with precise passing and lockdown defense.
Moments before the first half concluded, Santa Clara struck again to increase its lead to 2-0. A left-footed, high-arcing cross from Sanchez found the head of redshirt junior Kelcie Hedge, who put the ball on frame and above the reach of Cal’s redshirt freshman keeper Olivia Sekany.
Early in the second half, Santa Clara put Cal away with two more goals in the 58th and 60th minutes. Junior Maddy Gonzalez first converted a diving header in Cal’s box, and two minutes later, sophomore Kelsey Turnbow found space in the porous Bears defense to convert yet another assist from Sanchez.
Sanchez was the catalyst of the Broncos’ offensive attack, assisting on three of Santa Clara’s four goals in the game.
Cal’s lone goal came in the 79th minute off of a rebounded shot from junior Kayla Fong. The chance came after a Santa Clara defender was sent off with a red card for pulling Fong down in a clear attempt to deny the Bears a scoring opportunity. The goal was only the third shot for the Bears in this contest, and only the second on target.
Cal will now look to rebound from this disappointing performance Friday against Harvard. While Harvard is often in the mix for Ivy League championships, the Crimson remain a young team, featuring 17 underclassmen, and managed an 8-8-1 record last season, good for sixth place in the Ivy League.
Harvard will open regular-season action in Berkeley this week, as Cal attempts to move back into the win column.
Max Mennemeier covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected]