Two familiar foes. Two games, each a tale of two halves. Two different results. Boiling the Bears’ experience at the Stanford Invitational down to its most essential components, that’s the way the weekend transpired.
But there’s much more to the story than that.
Cal’s weekend kicked off with a rematch against No. 7 Michigan. The two programs faced off at the Gaucho Invite in mid-January, where the Bears narrowly emerged victorious by a score of 8-7 in spite of a slow start.
The second installment in this season’s rivalry followed a strikingly similar arc.
Cal found itself down 4-1 — the same deficit from which it had to fight back the first time these teams met — with two and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Bears wasted no time clawing back again once they fell behind by three.
Freshman Shea Salvino and junior Georgia Gilmore each scored to cut the lead to one by the end of the opening period. For Gilmore, it was the first of three goals.
Cal head coach Coralie Simmons had high praise for Gilmore. “Georgia Gilmore was lightning off the bench,” Simmons said. “She did a great job for us offensively, and that kind of allowed us to find our groove, find our rhythm as a squad.”
The Bears briefly pulled ahead in the early goings of the second quarter, but the Wolverines snatched the lead right back and held onto it for the remainder of the first half. At halftime, the score was 6-5 in Michigan’s favor, and the Wolverines’ Emily Ritner had four goals.
In the second half, the Bears flipped the script.
Cal was relatively dominant in the latter part of the game, outscoring Michigan 5-2 and holding Ritner scoreless in what was yet another instance of the Bears starting slow but managing to turn things around by game’s end.
“Playing Michigan, we had some early breakdowns defensively so they kind of capitalized on our defensive lapses,” Simmons said of the issue. “Once we got settled in … we found our stride and found what we were wanting to accomplish for that game.”
The match with Stanford didn’t end as favorably for Cal.
The Bears again found themselves down 4-1 midway through the first quarter, but by halftime it was 5-5. From there, it was all Cardinal.
“Stanford did a good job of limiting our looks and got us kind of reeling, and on our heels attacking on power plays,” Simmons said. “So if we would have done a better job of putting the ball away when we had those opportunities, the second half would have been a different look for us.”
Cal found the back of the cage on just one of its 10 power-play opportunities. Stanford, meanwhile, benefited from another standout performance by Sarah Klass in what ended up as a 10-6 win for the Cardinal.
Brigit Mulder, meanwhile, fought valiantly for the Bears. She tallied three goals and an assist in the losing effort. As of now, Mulder is the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation leader in assists.
Cal came out flat but managed to pull within striking distance by halftime in both of its games at the Stanford Invitational. The second halves of the Bears’ two games, however, could not have been more different, as they pulled away from the Wolverines but ended up on the wrong side of a blowout against the Cardinal.
Cal will face off in a dual match against Pacific in Stockton on Saturday and look for redemption.
Ethan Moutes covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].