Cal field hockey ends season with agonizing 4-3 double-overtime defeat

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In a season full of disappointment, there was only one way the Cal field hockey team’s season could end — in heartbreak. And on Friday, that’s exactly what happened, as the Bears (5-12) fell in devastating fashion, losing 4-3 to No. 15 Maine (15-4) in double overtime after surrendering a late lead against a top-tier squad.

The action got started immediately. On Maine’s first penalty corner of the game, the initial shot was blocked, but Maine forward Brianna Ricker tipped it in on the rebound for the first score of the game.

But the Bears fought back. Less than 30 seconds later, Cal passed the ball into the circle, and, off of a mishandle by a Maine defender, the Bears capitalized with a shot into the top of the net.

This time, it was senior captain Melina Moore, a member of the Cal team that beat Maine twice during the 2016 campaign. In those contests, Moore led the Bears with six shots, and her early spark Friday evened the score at 1-1.

The early goal was a good sign for Cal. The Bears have become proficient at staging comebacks late in games, but Friday was the first time all season that the Bears responded in the first 10 minutes of play.

The rest of the first half featured exciting back-and-forth action, with both teams well aware of the ramifications of the single elimination format. The Bears and Black Bears combined for 13 first-half shots, with two great saves by the Maine defense to keep Cal at bay.

In the 28th minute, Maine broke through, as midfielder Libby Riedl scored on a one-on-one opportunity to put the Black Bears ahead.

As the Bears have done all season though, they bounced back. Less than two minutes into the second half, junior Femke Delissen scored on a straight shot from a penalty corner to knot the game up again, this time at 2-2.

Maine came roaring back to try to regain the advantage, but the Cal defense demonstrated its fortitude. In the six minutes following Delissen’s goal, the Black Bears took six shots, but Cal goalkeeper Danielle Mentink saved all three that were on target.

After the Maine attack was thwarted, it was Cal’s turn. The Bears reversed the tide and mounted an offensive onslaught of their own, earning three penalty corners in the next four minutes. After the first was saved and the second blocked, the third time was the charm for the Bears, as sophomore Yvie Lock deflected a shot by Megan Rodgers into the back of the net, putting Cal ahead in the 47th minute.

It seemed as if all of Cal’s scoring woes from the season had gone away, and with a 3-2 lead, the Bears pushed for more. Cal sent three shots on target in three minutes, but all three were saved.

Even so, everything seemed to be going in Cal’s favor. Cal kept Maine from taking a shot for a 20-minute stretch in the second half, and with just five minutes to go, the Bears remained in front.

But heartbreak struck again. In the 66th minute, with just four minutes remaining in regulation, Maine scored off a deflection to send the game to a sudden-death overtime. And as has been the case with Cal’s previous two overtime games this season, the Bears couldn’t find the back of the net, and Maine won the game on an isolation dagger in the second overtime frame.

Friday’s game was truly a microcosm of Cal’s season, and with the loss, the Bears end the year at 5-12 and finish a once-hopeful season in disappointment.

Tim Sun covers field hockey. Contact him at [email protected].