It was all supposed to build up to this moment. All the losses and overtime heartbreakers at the hands of elite teams were swallowed with the mindset that those losses would help the team down the line. On Friday afternoon, though, Cal field hockey suffered a letdown, falling to No. 21 Stanford, 3-2.
“We talked about it early in the year — that given the schedule, it could be a bad record, but I thought we’d be a really good team,” said head coach Shellie Onstead. “I really thought everything was going to show today — that all of those losses would pay off in conference — so this hurts that we really didn’t put it together.”
With a raucous home crowd cheering them on, the Bears looked energetic and confident out of the gates, dominating possession early and forcing Stanford into sloppy turnovers. Still, the Bears were unable to score on five first-half shot attempts, and an opportunistic Stanford team seemed to capitalize on every opportunity.
The Cardinal scored on their first shot and then later on their first penalty corner stroke of the game to take a 2-0 lead into halftime. Cal seemed to have the edge, but Stanford took advantage of every circle entry, converting two of its four first-half shots into goals.
“I think it’s really a matter of staying focused,” said freshman star Brynn Zorilla. “We’re just getting so into the attack that it’s hard to transition really quickly into defense, so we’re just letting them get those fast counters.”
The second half started out promising. Just like the beginning of the game, Cal came out of the locker room with energy. The Bears got three shots off in the first five minutes of the half, with sophomore forward Megan Rodgers scoring in the open field to cut the deficit to one.
The Cardinal, though, continued to convert on seemingly every opportunity. On their second penalty corner of the game, sharpshooter Corinne Zanolli scored again, putting Stanford ahead 3-1 and crushing Cal’s spirit.
Deflated, the Bears were unable to rebound, and for a 25-minute stretch in the second half, Cal took just one shot, as the team almost seemed to accept another defeat.
“We’ve recognized that that’s an energy issue,” Onstead said. “We have a couple things in place to try to spark it, so that’s good news.”
Though Rodgers scored again to bring the energy back, the goal came with just four minutes left, and the Bears ran out of time for a comeback. In the end, Cal fell 3-2 with a familiar storyline: missed opportunities resulting in a disappointing loss.
“I think it’s really really difficult to say why we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” said midfielder Yvie Lock. “We got a lot of goal shots, so we are getting it on target — we are getting shots off … and hopefully next time they’ll go in.”
While hope might help, earning a few wins and relearning how to win seem to be the key for Cal, and the Bears got going in the right direction with a 3-0 victory over UC Davis on Sunday.
“I think, honestly, it’s just getting our confidence up,” said senior forward Melina Moore. “All of these games are really to prep us for the conference tournament, and if we’re ready by then, I think we’ll do great then and move on to NCAAs.”
Tim Sun covers field hockey. Contact him at