Clutch is “unscoutable.” The ability to seize an opportunity in a high-pressure situation will never show up in a recruit’s star rating or on a 20-80 scale. At the same time, “clutch” is imperfect and inconsistent. Give a player enough opportunities and one of those times, they will fall short.
A normally clutch Cal side fell to 9-3 after back-to-back home losses — a 1-0 defeat to Washington on Thursday and another 1-0 loss in overtime to No. 14 Washington State on Sunday.
When Thursday’s game kicked off, the Bears were put on the back foot almost immediately. Washington controlled the match until the final whistle, outshooting Cal 11-6 and winning 10 corners to the Bears’ one.
The Huskies were out for blood as early as the second minute as Cal midfielder Daisy Cleverley was pressured into an errant pass that was dangerously picked off. Washington’s Vanessa Millsaps found the final ball and forced a spectacular save out of the Bears’ keeper Angelina Anderson, who sprung high to her left to deny Millsaps an opening goal.
The Bears’ shot-stopper would be called on five times and one of her best saves of the day happened six minutes into the second half. Ameera Hussen’s long-range strike from midfield caught Anderson out, but the ball ricocheted downwards off the crossbar and away from goal. The resulting rebound flew high into the air and fell into the path of Millsaps, who was put in a prime position to get revenge for Anderson’s first-half save.
Again, Cal’s freshman keeper prevailed. Diving at the feet of Millsaps, Anderson parried away another shot destined for the net. Thursday’s match was a goalkeeping clinic from Anderson — and when disaster struck, it took all of Edwards Stadium by surprise.
It was either a masterfully worked set piece or a series of fortunate touches — Huskies defender Taylor Sekyra’s long pass into the Cal penalty area was headed on by midfielder Olivia Van der Jagt and into the stride of forward Makena Carr. This time, Anderson had no chance to stop a low, first-touch effort that found the far corner of the net.
“You have to credit Washington, I think they deserved a victory today,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “I think our energy was a little low … our ability to keep the ball wasn’t our normal.”
McGuire clearly made the necessary changes over the next two days — when Cal started their Sunday match against No. 14 Washington State, they looked like a completely different team. The Bears created opportunity after opportunity, leading the Cougars in both shots (14-9) and shots on goal (6-4). Meanwhile, Cal’s back four, led by captain Emily Smith, held Washington State scoreless through 90 minutes — but the Bears would also struggle to find a goal of their own.
“I’m proud of our effort. I’m proud of our players’ commitment,” said McGuire. “We just have to continue to try to work on execution.”
Cal’s midfield virtuoso Luca Deza seemed to be everywhere at once — threading passes through Cougar defenders one second and putting in a well-timed tackle the next. She made a pass on a dime to Mia Corbin in the 59th minute, but the forward’s powerful strike glanced off the crossbar. Paige Metayer was also put through by one of Deza’s lobbed passes, but her ambitious chip shot sailed over both the Cougar keeper and the net.
With neither team scoring in regulation, overtime kicked off with Washington State in possession. The Bears’ first extra time period of the season would be short — after just 71 seconds, a long throw-in was controlled in the box by Washington State’s Averie Collins and sent on to forward Makamae Gomera-Stevens. The Cougar junior slotted the ball in at the far post for a Washington State golden goal, sending the visitors swarming onto the field.
“I think we had opportunities (and) so did they,” McGuire said. “They were able to get their moment, and we didn’t take care of ours.”