Cal women’s soccer is barely past the halfway point of the season, but already the team’s toughest weekend of the year is behind it. Despite hard-fought battles against No. 2 USC on Thursday and No. 16 UCLA on Sunday, the Bears were unable to defend their home turf against two of the Pac-12’s best.
Squaring up against one of the nation’s most talented offenses in the Trojans, the Bears exceeded expectations Thursday afternoon. Although they were outshot 23-3 in regulation, steadfast defense in the box combined with an impressive performance from freshman goalie Amanda Zodikoff led to 90 scoreless minutes of regulation.
In overtime, the Bears stayed on the front foot, as junior Kayla Fong opened up the offensive activity in the 93rd minute with a shot from deep. But in the 94th minute, USC forward Penelope Hocking went after a long pass in the six, colliding with Zodikoff and knocking her to the ground in the process. As she was down, midfielder Ashleigh Plumptre got a touch on the loose ball, tapping in the golden goal that would seal the win for USC.
Just like that, the possibility of an upset collapsed, and despite a commendable effort by the Bear defense, the Trojans would escape Berkeley with their undefeated record intact.
Sunday’s game, on the other hand, left a different kind of bitter taste in the Bears’ mouths, as Cal recorded its worst losing margin of the season in a 4-0 shutout.
UCLA made its presence known early, establishing its lead in the 18th minute on a close-range conversion from forward Ashley Sanchez to forward Sunny Dunphy. The Bruins doubled their lead on a direct kick from just outside the box by forward Anika Rodriguez, rounding out a first half that featured no answer from Cal.
The Bears struggled to retain possession throughout the first half, appearing overpowered by the dominant Bruin offense.
UCLA blew the game open in the second half, recording two more goals and defending Cal’s three second-half shots. When all was said and done, the Bears had been outshot 21-4. In the losing effort, Zodikoff recorded a new career high in saves with eight.
“I thought (UCLA’s) offense did a really great job,” Zodikoff said. “They have a few really great players, and obviously they attacked a lot of minutes in the first half, but I thought our back line did a really great job blocking all the shots that they could. Obviously we just played two of the best teams in our conference, and I thought that we did pretty good, and you know it doesn’t always go your way.”
While the results were certainly not what the Bears were hoping for, they can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the road ahead is much more forgiving on paper.
“No matter what, we’ve just got to keep our heads up. We’ve got to keep playing. We can’t let the bad games get in our head or anything,” Zodikoff said. “We have a tough road trip coming up, but I really think we’re going to do well on the road and come back strong, hopefully.”