Despite its strong play as of late, Cal field hockey simply has not been able to generate wins, and its woes continued this weekend with a 2-1 loss at Pacific.
The Bears (3-6) kicked off their conference schedule against the Tigers (7-5), and action picked up right from the start. In the second minute, Rylee Comeau got Pacific on the board with a shot past the goalkeeper’s shoulder.
Down 1-0, the Bears fought to even the score. They generated two shots on goal in the next 15 minutes, but the rest of the first half was a scoreless stalemate. Cal’s inability to score early is nothing new; the Bears still have yet to score in the first 25 minutes of any game, and this marked the fifth game in which they entered halftime without a goal.
Both defenses remained strong in the second half. In the 40th minute, Cal sophomore midfielder Valen Garraffo made a defensive save on a penalty corner, and solid backfield play continued to stifle the opposing offenses. Neither team was able to create consistent scoring opportunities, as Cal and Pacific combined for just 13 shots and six penalty corners on the game.
With seven minutes left and the score still at 1-0, Cal called a timeout. When play resumed, however, the Tigers capitalized early again, scoring after just 10 seconds.
Now in desperation mode, Cal emptied its net in exchange for more offensive players, scoring less than a minute later. It was too little, too late. The Tigers held up for the last five minutes, dealing the Bears their first loss to an unranked opponent this season.
The defeat is the third in a row for Cal and the fifth in the last six games. A lack of offense continues to write the story for the Bears: Outside of sophomore Megan Rodgers, Cal simply does not boast any scoring threats. Rodgers is still the only Bear with multiple goals this season, and she has recorded 37 shots while the next highest is nine.
The goalkeeper position is also becoming a possible area of concern. Sophomore Natalie Dalton and junior Danielle Mentink each played about half the game Sunday, as head coach Shellie Onstead continues to experiment with both players. The two have combined for just a 58.2 save percentage and give up 2.56 goals per game.
Despite the loss, the Bears have made measured progress in certain areas of struggle from earlier this season. Penalty corners were an obvious weakness in the first few games, but Cal has both limited opponents’ corner opportunities and their conversion rate as of late.
Over the first five games, Cal gave up seven corners per game, with 9 of their 14 goals conceded coming on or directly after corners. In the past four games, the Bears have reduced the number of penalty corners given up to 4.25 per game, with only two of the nine goals allowed coming as a result of a corner.
The most important statistic, though, is wins, and the Bears will need to figure out how to generate more of those moving forward.