Bears close out their season and head into AEC tournament

Ruby Sapia/Staff

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Some say poker is a game based on luck, others say it is a skill. The game of poker, however, is a combination of the two. In the short term, the game is based on luck and the cards you have been dealt with. In the long run, it all comes down to the player’s skill.

Cal was dealt a difficult hand at the beginning of the season with a tough schedule that led to a difficult losing streak. The Bears may have had bad luck in the beginning, but their skill carried them through ending the season with a better hand than they started with.

The Bears went all-in on their last half of the season, converting a 2-6 record into 7-9. Their efforts resulted in three games forced to overtime and a win against a ranked opponent for the first time in two years.

“Right in the middle, we started getting some good, significant wins — coming up with some play that I am pretty happy about,” said Cal head coach Shellie Onstead. “Them getting more strengths in things like overtime is all getting building blocks in place for the games that come down to everything being on the line.”

So far, Cal has played in three conference games with a current record of 1-2. The Bears’ first matchup against No. 16 Stanford took place early in the season, and they lost to the Cardinal 2-0. Stanford came back this past week for a rematch and took the win once again, but not with the same amount of ease as before.

The Bears were within a hair’s breadth of victory, turning a three-goal deficit into a one-goal difference by the fourth quarter. The opportunity may not have come for Cal to tie the game, but its efforts in comparison to the last matchup with Stanford shows that skill has the potential to defy an unlucky hand.

UC Davis will also have a chance for revenge Wednesday after a 3-2 OT loss against Cal. This intimate game had both players and fans on their feet. As the game progressed, so did the shots and penalties, resulting in added minutes to the clock for some overtime play. The Bears’ junior forward Megan Rodgers scored the game-winning goal three minutes into overtime.

The Aggies have made quite the improvement in conference play compared to last year’s season, scoring only one goal in the six games played. Although they have clearly surpassed this number of goals, they still trail the Bears with a record of 0-2 in the American East Conference standings.

“I fully expected that our conference play would come right down to the last few games and I think this is the case with most sports conference play,” Onstead explained. “It is just a completely different thing than anything else. That’s when you see alleged upsets and tight games, it’s just the way you expect conference games to go.”

Rodgers leads the team with 11 goals this season, followed by Cal redshirt senior forward Katrina Carter with nine goals. These two have had quite the season as key contributors to the team’s comeback this season.

With one game remaining in their regular season, the Bears will have a chance to put this season’s work to the test — with hopes to end on a high note.

“Going into our last conference game, we have our own fate in our hands if we do well and we do not have to rely on anyone else to see if we get into the conference tournament — so I am happy where we stand and look forward to Wednesday,” said Onstead.

Cal and UC Davis will be playing Wednesday for a spot in the American East Conference tournament next month. UC Davis will need to win by two or more goals against Cal to have a chance at tournament qualification, so the stakes are understandably high for the Aggies.

If the Bears win this game, however, they will have a spot secured in the tournament and finish as the second team in the West Division of the conference. The contest will take place at the Aggie Field Hockey Facility in Davis at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Mara Redican covers field hockey. Contact her at [email protected].