Cal women’s soccer returns to form in emphatic win over Harvard

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Cal women’s soccer kicked off the weekend with a resounding 2-0 win against Harvard on Friday, moving to 2-1 on the season after a disappointing loss to Santa Clara earlier in the week.

The final score does not indicate just how dominant the Bears looked to be in this game. Cal controlled the pace from the opening whistle and used lengthy spells of possession to pressure the Harvard defense and create ample chances.

Defensively, building possession through the backline and midfield did not allow Harvard to see much time on the ball and limited the Crimson’s ability to muster any meaningful offensive opportunities.

Cal secured a lead in the 14th minute, when senior Miranda Nild placed a line-drive free kick past the Harvard goalkeeper for her first goal of the season. Junior Abi Kim was responsible for setting up the kick, weaving through the Harvard defense and ultimately drawing a foul just outside the Crimson’s 18-yard box.

“When I walked up there I noticed immediately that there was a huge hole,” Nild said about the moments leading up to the free kick, “I was banking on hitting it there. … I think that was the best opportunity that could’ve came out of that.”

The Bears continued to press the Crimson throughout the rest of the match and outshot Harvard by an impressive 19-1 margin, with a 6-1 discrepancy between shots on target.

Despite the consistent pressure through the first two-thirds of the game, the Bears still clung to their 1-0 lead. In the 68th minute, however, junior Kayla Fong and sophomore Emma Westin teamed up to give the Bears a much-needed insurance goal.

Fong received a pass near the top of Harvard’s 18-yard box and cleverly freed up Westin in front of goal with a lead pass through several Crimson defenders. Westin then put away her first goal of the year in the bottom corner of the net.

While the Bears threatened to add to their lead in the final minutes, the two-goal differential was enough to secure this emphatic victory.

“I think we had a lot of really good opportunities that we didn’t finish, and I think in the future we’ll be able to finish them and win by more than two — hopefully by five — and get ready for the Pac-12,” Nild said.

Cal will move on to face San Diego State this Friday in Berkeley, and while only a handful of upperclassmen may remember the last meeting between these two teams, the game conjures good memories for both players and head coach Neil McGuire. In Cal’s home opener of the 2015 season, the Bears not only notched a 2-0 win against San Diego State, but also secured McGuire’s 100th win with the program.

SDSU is coming off a 12-9-2 season in 2017, which included a first-round NCAA tournament appearance against the eventual tournament runner-up, No. 4 UCLA. Like the Bears, the Aztecs dropped an early-season match to Texas Tech and will play Long Beach State before their upcoming game against Cal.

If the Harvard match was any indication, the Bears have returned to playing a solid, tactical brand of soccer, and their return to form could foreshadow many more wins to come.

Max Mennemeier covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].