Newfound confidence leads Cal field hockey to big win over Yale

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Iron sharpens iron, and after facing off against two robust opponents last weekend, Cal field hockey showed off sharp play on both sides of the ball in a dominating 3-1 victory over Yale on Sunday.

The Bears came out the gates firing: Cal got three shots on goal in the first eight minutes alone, displaying a newfound degree of confidence gained from last weekend’s thrilling overtime loss against No. 12 Louisville. Against a lower level of competition, Cal took advantage Sunday and kept its foot on the pedal to deliver Yale its second defeat of the season.

After the fast start, Cal continued to put pressure on the Yale defense. The Bears took 11 shots in the first half, making the first breakthrough in the 27th minute when sophomore forward Megan Rodgers took the ball from the baseline and beat two defenders before scoring her fifth goal of the season.

“My immediate response to getting the ball in the circle is taking a shot,” Rodgers said. “I feel like I help the team by taking a lot of shots and challenging my teammates to take shots.”

“She’s really quick to get the shot off, and so if she gains the top of the circle, you can kind of expect it,” said head coach Shellie Onstead. “It’s important for her to have that mentality and get it on goal, and maybe we get something out of it.”

Just two minutes later, Rodgers was on the attack again. This time, her shot off of a penalty corner was blocked, but junior Fionna Jensen got the rebound, and after a huge scrum, Jensen did a reverse sweep to get the ball under the goalie and into the back of the net. The goal was Jensen’s first of her career, and it put the Bears up 2-0 going into halftime.

“We’ve been working on [our offense] inside the circle,” Jensen said. “My goal was considered a dirty goal — when it’s very chaotic, a lot of people — so we were focusing on that this week.”

After the break, the Bears did not let up: Cal earned two penalty corners in the first four minutes and scored again in the 44th minute. It was Rodgers again, this time off an assist from junior midfielder Lindsay Mathison.

Yale got on the board in the 51st minute, scoring on a penalty corner in its lone shot on goal, as a stingy Bear defense held the Bulldogs to just five shots the entire game.

Cal, though, took 19 shots, seven of which were on goal, and earned six penalty corners. The Bears’ three goals are the second most they’ve scored this season and come after working to improve their offensive efficiency during practice.

“Our focus this last week has been about the conversion rate inside the attacking 25 — it’s the conversion from the 25 to the circle penetration, and then what happens when you’re in the circle — so I think their consciousness is getting raised up,” Onstead said.

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