You want to be close when it comes to Cal football and the AP Top 25, but not so much when it comes to the score at a field hockey American East Conference battle. Whether they wanted the intimacy or not, Cal field hockey made the most of UC Davis’ clinginess and broke it off in overtime with a 3-2 win.
With an NCAA tournament bid on the line, both UC Davis and Cal knew this would not be an ordinary game.
“I was telling them beforehand that conference play is a whole different animal,” said the Bears’ head coach Shellie Onstead. “Whatever happened beforehand (during the season) has been all about getting ready for this portion of the schedule.”
The occasion, however, seemed to only fuel the atmosphere as the stands at Underhill Field were packed full of fans, alumni and families Friday as the Bears celebrated their seniors during homecoming weekend. UC Davis and Cal may have had a scoreless first period, but the excitement to come was more than this crowd had hoped for.
After a failed attempt in the first period, the Bears followed through in the next period when freshman backfielder Megan Connors scored the first goal with the help of senior backfielder Femke Delisson and senior midfielder Lindsay Mathison.
Seeing the crowd’s reaction, Davis’ junior backfielder Audrey Matthew wanted in on the commotion and immediately came back to tie the game, which wouldn’t be the first time the two teams were deadlocked in the evening.
As tensions rose coming back from halftime, Cal senior midfielder Gabi Jimenez forced a crucial turnover allowing redshirt senior forward Katrina Carter to find the net, bringing her to 9 goals on the season.
Davis sophomore midfielder Catherine Potente was quick to mitigate the fears of Davis fans in attendance, as she scored early in the third to tie the game once again.
As the game progressed, the shots got closer, the plays more aggressive and saves more frequent. Each time the Bears took control of the game, Davis was able to pressure the ball to the other side of the field. This back and forth action stayed consistent through the fourth, resulting in added minutes to the clock for some overtime play.
UC Davis started overtime short a player after a yellow card in the fourth period, but they did not seem phased by the disadvantage and held their ground until the field was even again.
Each team arranged chances to score in regulation, but the Bears’ preparation ultimately paid off when junior forward Megan Rodgers scored her team-leading 10th goal of the season with the assist from sophomore midfielder Brynn Zorilla to close out the game.
Cal is no stranger to overtime games, as this was their third so far this season.
“We have been working on OT quite a bit this year,” Onstead said. “We lost in OT at the end of the year last year, so this was a big focus for us this year in how to be better prepared. We have a few really tactical, structural things in place. They were great tonight.”
UC Davis may have been rejected this time around, but they have a shot at redemption to surmount the Bears on Oct. 30. After a rough go at conference play last year, Davis has already scored more goals against conference opponents than they did last season. This loss may be the motivation they need toward that postseason goal.
Ranked opponents should not seem so threatening after recently defeating one, as Cal will take on No. 16 Stanford for their second conference game this season Tuesday at Underhill Field at 3 p.m.
The match will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks.
Mara Redican covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected].