Bears say farewell to graduates, earn back-to-back home wins

Josh Kahen/Staff

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If you are an athlete, you always want one more.

It could be one more game alongside the teammates that you’ve grown to respect and care for. Perhaps one more chance on a professional roster so you can keep going.

It could even be one more minute on the field before you hang up your uniform — not to score or to win, but just to play.

For Cal, there is one more match remaining in the regular season, but the final homestand of the year saw eight Bears play at Edwards Stadium for the last time. Maggie Bell, Mia Corbin, Daisy Cleverley, Jordyn Elliott, Kayla Fong, Abi Kim, Avery Lakeman and Olivia Sekany will all be graduating at the end of the season. All of them, except Lakeman, who was ruled out this season due to injury, had minutes in their home send-off on Sunday.

“They’ve been tremendous servants of the program and have given great things to the Cal community,” said head coach Neil McGuire. “We wish them all the best when the time comes — we know they’re going to go on and be very successful.”

The outgoing eight’s contributions proved to be essential as the Bears locked down two home wins over Arizona and Arizona State last week to move to fifth place in the Pac-12.

With the favorable results, Cal has a real chance at making the short trip to San Jose for the NCAA College Cup this year — the Bears missed out on the tournament last season and were eliminated by Santa Clara in the first round in 2017.

Going into Thursday, only one point separated Cal and Arizona in the Pac-12 standings, but the Bears ran away with what seemed to be a close match on paper. Although they had not bested the Wildcats since 2013, Cal dominated on both sides of the ball en route to a 3-0 win.

Freshman goalkeeper Angelina Anderson withstood a Wildcats offensive barrage in undoubtedly her best performance of the year between the sticks — she made both a career-high and a season-high 10 saves against a tenacious Arizona side that outshot Cal 19-7. Anderson’s ninth clean sheet of the season tied the Cal freshman shutout record set by Noreen Paris back in 1985.

After an early onslaught from the Wildcats, the Bears scored against the run of play when a Mia Corbin corner was prodded home by redshirt sophomore Denae Antoine for her first career goal in Pac-12 play.

Minutes into the second half, Kim beat two Arizona defenders to a loose ball and finished her second goal of the year to double Cal’s lead. Kim would put the game out of reach 10 minutes later — her high pressing forced an errant pass that ended up in the Arizona net for an own goal.

If the Bears came out on Sunday expecting a relaxing Senior Day, it began as anything but. After just 49 seconds of play, Arizona State senior Christina Edwards headed in a well-placed free kick delivery to stun the home crowd.

Cal regrouped nicely — in the 41st minute, the Bears found the equalizer through a usual suspect, the team’s top scorer, Emma Westin. The junior latched onto a long pass from defender Emily Smith, sneaking her shot through Sun Devils keeper Giulia Cascapera’s legs. The goal was Westin’s 11th on the season, tying her for third in Pac-12 scoring.

The Bears scored the winner in poetic fashion. When sophomore wing-back Abena Aidoo was dragged down in the box by Arizona State’s Olive Jones in the 75th minute, Corbin stepped up to take the spot-kick for one of her final touches of the ball in Berkeley. Her effort curled into the roof of the net and left Cascapera rooted to the spot, breaking the tie and ending the seniors’ last home match on a high note.

Although the Bears are finished at Edwards Stadium for the year, their last regular season match should be a headliner — Cal will face Stanford away from home on Friday.

Chanun Ong covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].