It had been a while since the Bears really, truly blew a team out. A four-goal win over UC Davis last month? Convincing, but perhaps not dominant. A 12-6 victory against SJSU in the season opener? Impressive, but tainted by the fact that the Bears later lost to the Spartans at home in the Cal Cup.
But here we are, following a 17-9 walloping that left the Tigers with their tails between their legs.
While most of Cal’s highlights came from the game’s middle two quarters, the Bears did somewhat manage to buck an undesirable trend by commanding a lead at the end of the first period.
Lethargic starts got Cal into trouble in past games against teams like UCSD and SJSU, so the Bears made sure to bring their A-game from the first whistle.
“From the beginning of the game we were all really focused, because obviously the start of our season did not go the way we wanted it to go,” said junior Brigit Mulder. “We knew that we had to be really focused from the beginning and show that we are the better team.”
Four scores from four different players propelled Cal to a 4-3 lead in the opening frame. This quarter was indicative of the balanced offensive barrage that persisted for much of the game — 12 Bears found the back of the cage in Saturday’s game, a season first.
Pacific scored first, but after taking that 1-0 lead, the Tigers never led again for the duration of the game.
Junior utility Claire Sonne kicked off scoring for the Bears. As of Feb. 2, Sonne was tied for seventh in the MPSF in goals this season, and her hat trick Saturday certainly didn’t hurt matters any.
It was junior attacker Brigit Mulder’s five-meter penalty shot, however, that started Cal on what became an 11-2 run for the Bears. The rally spanned quarters two and three and featured Cal in potentially the best form it’s been in all season. Sonne and Mulder combined for four goals and three assists during said rally.
Two factors which allowed the Bears to take command of the game were their shooting efficiency and power-play defense.
Cal scored on 17 of its 28 shots over the course of the match, good for 60.7%. Meanwhile, with regard to the Bears’ 6-on-5 stops, Cal only allowed Pacific to convert on two of its 10 power-play opportunities.
The Bears relented somewhat down the stretch, with the Tigers outscoring them 4-2 in the last quarter. By then, however, the result of the game was never in question.
Historically speaking, this win was far from unprecedented — quite the opposite, in fact — as the Bears are now 18-0 all-time against Pacific. Saturday’s match was, however, tied for the most lopsided meeting between these teams in the last four years.
The performances that sophomores Brianna Utas and Ana Martinez Do Amaral turned in were two of the few bright spots for the Tigers. The duo combined for five goals on 12 shots and Utas had three assists.
A win in such dominant fashion can do only good things for the Bears’ confidence as the season moves along.
Cal will strive for a similarly imposing win in its next match, a duel with UC Davis on Saturday.
Ethan Moutes covers women’s water polo. Contact him at [email protected].