Cal women’s soccer narrowly misses out on undefeated weekend at home

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A weekend doubleheader ended in anguish for Cal women’s soccer (3-2) Sunday afternoon at Edwards Stadium. After starting off the weekend on the right foot with a win against SDSU, the Bears came within a hair of extending their five-game home win streak but ultimately dropped Sunday’s finale against UCSB in overtime.

Friday’s opener tipped in the Bears’ favor early, with junior forward Abi Kim scoring on a header in the fourth minute. Later in the first half, sophomore midfielder Luca Deza would add to the lead on a close shot for her first goal of the season. The Aztecs were able to answer shortly after halftime as true freshman Florence Laroche finished on a cross, but Bears’ junior forward Kayla Fong added the insurance goal in the 77th minute, which sealed the 3-1 victory for the home team.

Cal’s defense was tight as usual, allowing just six SDSU shots and minimizing the workload on redshirt freshman goalkeeper Olivia Sekany. Win number one for the weekend: check.

“I have amazing teammates, and we feed off of each others intensity and energy,” Kim said. “We push each other every day to try and be our best selves. My goal this season is to try and score a goal or set up one of my teammates every game.”

What looked to be the second runaway victory for Cal came down to the wire Sunday, as UCSB snapped the five-game win streak at home in a thrilling 3-2 overtime showdown. The Bears went up 1-0 quickly in the first half, as sophomore forward Emma Westin took a shot from what felt like a mile from the goal, which, to the audible shock of the crowd, sailed over goalkeeper Natalie Hill’s head. Minutes later, junior forward Abi Kim added to the lead when she found the back of the net on a rebound from close range.

Cal had cracked the formidable UCSB defense with ease. Before this game, the Gauchos had allowed just four goals all season.

“There was a lot of space around their backs,” Kim said. “And our flank players, 10s, and I were able to make threatening runs down the flanks. That’s how we scored both our goals.”

The Bears’ efforts were unanswered in the first half, as they took their 2-0 lead into the locker room. UCSB came out re-energized on the other side of halftime, challenging Cal early but ultimately failing to convert on a high shot and a corner kick shortly after. It took until the 60th minute for the Gauchos to get on the board, when a hectic scramble in the box prevented Sekany from getting the stop.

Just when it looked like the Bears might emerge victorious, UCSB forward Shaelan Murison hit the equalizer in the 81st minute on an impressive takeaway in the box, good for her team-leading fifth goal of the season. Unable to respond on a handful of free kicks in the last nine minutes of regulation, the Bears headed to overtime.

The ten-minute sudden death overtime featured missed opportunities for Cal, as both a corner kick and a free kick were deflected to start the period. Then, in the sixth minute of overtime, UCSB midfielder Madeline Gibson found the ball on a throw-in right at the top center of the box and launched a rocket over the outstretched arms of Sekany to seal the comeback win. It was an instantaneous heartbreak for the Bears to the tune of uncontrollable excitement for the Gauchos.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” Kim said. “But we have two big games on the road this weekend, so our focus is on recovering and getting ready for those. We’ll take a lot of lessons from this game and move forward.”

With the daunting weekend in Oklahoma coming up, the Bears will have no choice but to put this loss behind them. Despite the outcome, the offense played well in both the SDSU and UCSB games and should carry that with them as they face a top-ranked defense in Oklahoma State on Friday.

Adriana Ghiozzi covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @dailycal_ag.