Cal field hockey falls short against No. 2 UNC, No. 11 Louisville

Zainab Ali/File

Cal field hockey hit the road for the first time this season but was unable to consistently find the back of the net against No. 2 North Carolina and No. 11 Louisville, falling 6-0 and 2-1 (OT) to drop to 2-3 on the season.

The weekend was another emotional rollercoaster for the Bears — after a blowout at the hands of perennial powerhouse North Carolina, Cal went toe-to-toe with a very strong Louisville team before losing a heartbreaker in overtime.

The Bears started off on their heels against the Cardinals, surrendering three penalty corners in the first 12 minutes, but junior goalkeeper Danielle Mentink made saves on each one to keep the game scoreless. The game became a stalemate for the next 15 minutes, as stout defensive performances led to both sides combining for just one shot attempt in that time frame.

In the 31st minute, though, Cal caught its break. After a botched penalty corner by Louisville, junior midfielder Lindsay Mathison broke away and scored her first goal of the season to put the Bears up 1-0.

The second half brought more of the same gridlock — both defenses holding strong, with a few penalty corner opportunities thwarted. This time, however, it was Louisville that eventually broke through, scoring in the 55th minute to tie the game.

The final 15 minutes brought desperate shot attempts from both sides, but in the end, additional time was required to settle the outcome. In the extra period’s fifth minute, the Cardinals capitalized on a penalty corner opportunity to take the victory.

The loss was heartbreaking for the Bears, as they kept pace with a top-15 team throughout the day. Louisville took four more shots — 11 to Cal’s 7 — and had three more on goal, but Cal had opportunities down the stretch to win the game.

Earlier in the weekend, the Bears faced off against their second top-five team this season in North Carolina. The Tar Heels’ offense outshot the Bears’ 27-8, scoring three times each half in a dominating victory.

Sophomore goalkeeper Natalie Dalton recorded 11 of the team’s 12 saves on the day, but the offensive onslaught from UNC was simply too much. Junior Catherine Hayden started the scoring spree in the fifth minute, and five different North Carolina players scored during the onslaught.

The Tar Heel defense, too, was stifling, not allowing a single shot on goal in the first half on the way to its third shutout of the season. Cal sophomore forward Megan Rodgers was able to generate five shots and two on goal, but the stingy UNC defense held up each time.

Despite the results, the Bears can take a lot from this weekend’s matchups. Cal got another chance to play against an elite team in North Carolina, and the experience could be helpful moving forward. In Louisville, too, Cal faced a strong squad and was able to go down to the wire with the Cardinals, matching them through 70 minutes.

Tim Sun covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].