Ask any football fan the secret to a successful season, and they’ll say it’s winning at home. For 32 consecutive UEFA Champions League games and counting, FC Barcelona has gone unbeaten in front of the Catalan faithful at the Camp Nou. Across the English Channel, all English sides dread a visit to Anfield, where Liverpool has not lost a Premier League game for more than two years.
Although Edwards Stadium is still building a footballing history of its own, the Cal women’s soccer team continued their perfect record as they notched back-to-back home wins this weekend.
On Friday, Emma Westin scored a phenomenal brace and Luca Deza hit another long-range bullseye as the Bears prevailed over San Diego 3-0.
Westin, the Bears’ top scorer, broke through in the 25th minute when a well-placed pass allowed her to cut past two defenders on the left wing. The Swedish national curled a peach of an effort into the far corner, beating Torero keeper Amber Michel at full stretch.
“The teammates that are setting balls up for me are great, so I don’t want to take credit for all that they’re doing,” Westin said. “I’m getting the ball played perfectly to me.”
In the 62nd minute, the San Diego defenders dropped back in the face of an advancing Deza — by the time Torero defenders closed in, she was already pulling away in celebration. In a replica of her two goals from the Bears’ home opener, Cal’s no. 10 looked up and fired from a distance, doubling the Bears’ lead with her third goal of the season.
The match was capped off with an exclamation point in the 84th minute from Westin, who demonstrated exceptional control on a loose ball at the edge of the penalty area. No one, including the flat-footed Toreros, saw it coming — but she hit a beautiful volley that flew into the top left corner, putting Cal’s fourth win in a row to bed.
“I basically saw the ball and struck it,” Westin said, laughing. “I was very surprised when it went in.”
Sunday proved to be a well-fought contest, as a 1-0 win over Montana was a challenge until the final whistle. The Bears attempted 16 shots that day, but their sole goal came from forward Abi Kim’s second half penalty conversion.
Kim, the Bears’ top scorer last season, has been primarily deployed on the flanks this season. Armed with blistering pace and a playmaker’s instinct, the Cal talisman’s numbers on paper aren’t reflective of her overall contributions. The crossing opportunities that Kim generates and the space that she creates as a perpetual threat on the wing have helped the Bears endlessly this year.
In the 47th minute, Kim made a lethal run into the box and latched onto a long pass from midfield, executing a perfect first touch to beat her mark. Montana defender Allie Larsen clipped her from behind, immediately drawing a penalty call from referee Jamie Padilla. Fittingly, Kim delivered from the spot, threading a low shot past the diving Claire Howard.
Cal’s defense on Sunday made sure Kim’s penalty was the decider. Freshman goalkeeper Angelina Anderson made two key second half saves en route to the team’s fifth clean sheet and the opposition’s chances were sparse as the Grizzlies mustered only two shots on goal. Montana piled on the pressure in the last 10 minutes, but the Bears would hold on for the shutout.
“Very proud of (our clean sheets),” said head coach Neil McGuire. “The pressing mentality of our strikers is very good, and as a result, it’s taken a lot of pressure off our back line and goalkeeper.”
The Bears will look to blank their opponents for as long as possible and will take their defensive form on the road Friday at UC Irvine.
Chanun Ong covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].