Ups, downs, hope, doubt — this season for Cal field hockey has had it all. The regular season comes to an end Sunday, though, as the Bears are set for a home finale against Pacific — a program they’ve seen before.
It’s been less than a month since Cal last took on Pacific, but a lot has happened in that time. The Bears made their final road trip of the season to Syracuse, lost in heartbreaking fashion to Boston College and fell to Stanford twice by a single goal each time. Cal also snapped a six-game losing streak with back-to-back victories over UC Davis.
The Tigers (9-7, 3-2) are paced on offense by senior forward Kriekie van Wyk, who has scored 15 goals on the season, good for 10th in the country. On Sunday, in Pacific’s 4-0 win over UC Davis, van Wyk notched a hat trick in the first 15 minutes of play.
In the previous contest against Pacific, Cal did not allow van Wyk to get on the board, but two other Tigers stepped up in the 2-1 finish. Second-leading scorer Rylee Comeau put the Tigers ahead just 67 seconds into the match, and midfielder Ash Rutherford scored her only goal of the season with six minutes left to give the Tigers the victory.
This early and late scoring has been a trend for Pacific this season, as it has started and finished games particularly strong. Of the team’s 35 goals this season, nine have come in the opening 10 minutes, and eight have come in the final 10 minutes.
Cal, on the other hand, has struggled in the early going with manufacturing goals. The Bears have just two goals in the first 25 minutes of any matchup and none in the first 15 minutes.
Despite the lack of early scoring, the Bears have worked to keep up their intensity until the final whistle. The Bears have recorded six of their 25 goals in the final 10 minutes, and in both losses to Stanford, the Bears mounted a late comeback with a goal in the last five minutes of play.
These close games have been the story of the season for Cal. Five of the Bears’ 10 losses have been by a single goal, whether in a blown lead against Boston College or in comebacks that came up just short against Stanford.
“The ability to close out a game like that is really the same skill as coming back from being down,” head coach Shellie Onstead said after the Boston College loss. “They had to learn the hard way that it’s never over.”
The Bears have been continually building these skills, and Sunday will be the last chance for Cal to demonstrate its development with a victory. Pacific is the only unranked team that Cal has lost to, so the Bears have a chance to show that their previous loss was a fluke.
This season has been a roller coaster for Cal, but with a win on Sunday, the Bears can head into the postseason the same way they headed into the regular season — with hope.
Tim Sun covers field hockey. Contact him at