Cal women’s soccer suffered a disappointing home defeat Saturday to open its Pac-12 campaign. After the 2-1 loss to Arizona State, the Bears fell to 4-4-1 on the season and snapped a 13-game win streak at home against conference opponents in the process.
Under head coach Neil McGuire, Berkeley has been one of the most difficult venues in the Pac-12 for opponents, and just last season, Cal went 8-2-1 at home. In 2018, however, the Bears have struggled to defend home field, reflected by a 3-2-1 record at Edwards Stadium.
Against ASU, Cal came out firing from the opening whistle and created several chances in the early moments of the match. This effort culminated in the 27th minute, when senior Miranda Nild whipped a pass to sophomore Emma Westin, who got the ball past ASU sophomore keeper Nikki Panas and into the back of the net.
Westin added yet another goal to her solid campaign and now shares the team lead for goals scored with three, but she was not unaccompanied in her efforts. Junior Abi Kim, who has exhibited success against the Sun Devils in the past, tallied four of Cal’s nine shots in the match, including three shots on goal.
Nild put a shot of her own on frame and added a second assist to her 2018 resume, but despite this activity on the offensive side, the Bears could not add the vital insurance goal throughout the middle portion of the match.
While both teams traded blows during the middle of the game, ASU gradually ratcheted up the pressure after going down early.
ASU freshman Nicole Douglas continued her hot start to the season with the equalizing goal in the 70th minute of action. Douglas corralled a loose ball that resulted from Cal freshman goalkeeper Amanda Zodikoff’s initial save. Douglas notched her sixth goal of the season, adding to her team-leading total.
With a chance to steal a road win in Berkeley, ASU continued to press Cal in the final third through the waning moments of the match. The Sun Devils’ effort was rewarded in the 82nd minute, when a defensive lapse allowed ASU freshman midfielder Alexia Delgado to get off a quick shot from inside the box that zipped by Zodikoff for the game-winning goal.
Douglas assisted Delgado on the play, finishing the match with three points to her name.
Cal was unable to respond and force a deciding overtime period, costing the team a win and a spot at the top of the Pac-12 standings. Instead, ASU claimed an early share of Pac-12 supremacy at 1-0-0 in conference play and 6-2 overall.
Saturday’s matchup was certainly the toughest test so far for the Sun Devils, who had only played one game against a Division I, Power Five conference opponent coming into the match.
For Cal, the ASU game only foreshadows the formidable Pac-12 competition to come. On Thursday, the Bears square up against a 8-0-1 No. 3 USC side, which is coming off a 3-0 dusting of Washington, only to turn around to face No. 8 UCLA on Sunday afternoon.
Next weekend’s slate has the potential to define this 2018 Cal squad and set the tone for the rest of its season. When these two SoCal powerhouses visit the East Bay, the Bears should prepare to grind out two strong performances and rebound from this week’s loss on home turf.
Max Mennemeier covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].